What does gallbladder pain feel like? In the early stages, you might mistake the symptoms for indigestion. As gallstones get worse, however, you'll realize that the pain is a sign of something seriously wrong.
What Causes Gallbladder Pain?
Gallstones are the source of gallbladder pain. These crystalized deposits of salt and cholesterol build up in a tiny organ located next to your liver. The gallbladder stores bile produced by the liver, then releases it through the bile duct to the small intestine when you eat. Once there, the bile aids in digesting fatty foods.
Gallstones by themselves aren't a health threat, but if they block the bile duct, bile backs up in the gallbladder, causing severe pain. This is a serious medical condition that requires prompt evaluation by a doctor. Unfortunately, there is no specific way to prevent gallstones. Avoiding fatty foods and red meat can help, but some people simply have a predisposition to gall stones.
Recognizing the Pain
When gallstones first form, you may not notice them at all. After a big meal, particularly one with fatty foods, you may notice feelings of indigestion or a slight pain under the ribcage on the right side of your abdomen.
If gallstones are blocking the bile duct, the symptoms will be much more severe. At first, a gallbladder attack may seem like a bad case of gas or severe indigestion. It is accompanied by belching, and may bring up bitter liquid.
Gallbladder pain is generally felt in the abdomen, right below the ribcage and in the center of the chest. The pain may also radiate from the back to an area underneath the right shoulder.
The pain slowly increases in intensity. It starts as a slight discomfort; over several hours, it grows to a severe pain. Other symptoms include vomiting, indigestion and fever. You may also have a mild headache. The pain lasts anywhere from 5 to 15 hours.
A gallbladder attack most often occurs at night. Changing your position in bed or sitting up won't help to relieve the pain. The pain may be alleviated with a dose of magnesium followed by a bitter liquid, such as coffee. Bitter flavors help to stimulate the release of bile.
Don't expect a pattern of symptoms. Gallbladder attacks often occur randomly, and weeks may pass between episodes. If you experience these symptoms, see your doctor immediately. Left untreated, gallstones can trigger life-threatening infections in the liver and pancreas.
Knowing the foods to avoid for gallstones can help prevent new stones from forming and reduce the chance of gallbladder attacks.
What's the recovery time after gallbladder surgery? Thanks to laparoscopic surgery techniques, you can expect a short stay in the hospital and a quick return to normal activity.
The symptoms of gallstones can be subtle or sudden and excruciating. Learn what to look for and what you should do if you suffer a gallbladder attack.