Chances are good that you probably never think about your gallbladder. This small organ that lies under the liver is responsible for producing and storing bile to help the liver break down high-fat foods. Of course, you may start thinking about your gallbladder if you start to notice these symptoms of a gallbladder attack:
- Sudden, severe, and sharp abdominal pain (typically in the upper right side of the body)
- Pain that appears after eating and lasts several hours
- Light-colored stools
- Yellowing skin or eyes (jaundice)
You must see a doctor right away if you are experiencing gallbladder pain or any other symptoms of an attack. That’s because there are other potentially dangerous health problems such as appendicitis or a heart attack that can also mimic the pain and other symptoms associated with a gallbladder attack, and it’s important to rule out these other conditions. Plus, if the body is unable to pass the gallstones on its own this can also lead to an infection.
Am I at risk for gallstones?
Many factors can increase your risk of developing gallstones such as:
- Family history of gallstones and gallbladder disease
- Being over 60 years old
- Being a woman
- Being overweight or obese
- Taking estrogen or hormone medications
- Eating a diet that is low in fiber and high in cholesterol or fat
- Being pregnant
How is a gallbladder attack treated?
It is possible to have gallstones and never experience symptoms. In this case, you probably won’t require treatment unless there is the possibility of a complication. Sometimes medications are prescribed that can help to break up the gallstones. It may be time to consider having surgery to remove your gallbladder if:
- You’re dealing with severe cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder)
- There is an infection
- The gallbladder doesn’t work or has stopped working
- The gallbladder is causing significant pain and other problems
- There is a tumor on the gallbladder
If you are dealing with gallstones or gallbladder pain and want to discuss ways to prevent these problems in the future, or whether you should have your gallbladder removed, talk with a gastroenterologist today to learn more. Your doctor can tell you the best way to treat your gallbladder symptoms or whether you may need to consider surgery.