A gallbladder attack is a term commonly used to gallstone blockage. Gallbladder is a sac that is located above the right abdomen and just below the liver and is the storage unit for the bile juice produced by the liver. Bile is basically made up of water, cholesterol, bile salts, fats, bilirubin, and proteins. Bile juice generally help in preventing the formation of gallstones with the acids and proteins it contains. But when there is an imbalance in the bile components or if the bile contains too much cholesterol or bilirubin, it can result in the formation of small pebble-like deposits known as gallstones.
These gallstones can sometimes block the bile duct resulting in increased pressure in the gallbladder. This increased pressure gives rise to a sporadic pain in the center of the upper abdomen called biliary colic and this is called a gallbladder attack. This pain continuously radiates from the center of the belly to upper back. A gallbladder attack usually lasts about 15 minutes to an hour and the only way it can be managed is to let it naturally pass.
A gallbladder attack is also called a gallstone attack, acute cholecystitis, or biliary colic. It usually happens after a heavy meal. Our body produces more bile after we eat so we are more prone to gallbladder attacks after a meal. Some other symptoms of gallbladder attacks are:
- Dark urine
A gallbladder attack can lead to other complications such as liver problems. The gallstones can get stuck in the bile duct and can back up the bile into the liver which results in jaundice. If the gallstone blocks the way to the pancreas which results in gallstone pancreatitis. Gallstones that are very small will pass through the ducts causing no harm or pain. But the larger stones are the ones that get stuck and cause pain and inflammation.
The most common treatment for gallstones is a gallbladder surgery during which the entire gallbladder is removed. This procedure is called cholecystectomy and in the process, surgical incisions are made in the abdomen to remove the gallbladder. The surgery is a minor one but the patient may have to stay in the hospital for a week with 4-6 weeks of recovery time.
There are some non-surgical treatments also available for patients who have pre-existing medical conditions. Medications are prescribed in case of non-surgical treatments. These medications are able to dissolve cholesterol-based gallstones but the dissolving process may take years and there is always a risk of the stones coming back.
Preventing further attacks
Gallstones may be genetic but a few lifestyle changes can help in lowering the risks of gallstones or having gallbladder attacks.
- Losing Weight
- Balanced diets
- Avoid skipping meals
- Avoid weight loss supplements
Consulting a doctor is recommended if you do have a family history of gallstones.