You’ve probably heard the term “heart attack” before in reference to a cardiovascular event, but have you heard of a gallbladder attack? While they may not be as immediately life threatening as a heart attack, a gallbladder attack should not be taken lightly, because it can lead to more serious gallbladder conditions. Here’s a closer look at what happens during a gallbladder attack, and how they are treated by an endocrine specialist like Dr. Koeplin.
Causes and Symptoms of a Gallbladder Attack
A gallbladder attack, also referred to as acute cholecystitis, occurs when a blockage prevents bile from flowing out of the gallbladder. Oftentimes this is caused by the formation of a gallstone in the bile ducts, and when bile can’t flow easily out of the gallbladder, acute pain can set in. This pain can last for 15 minutes or a couple of hours, depending on how quickly the stone is passed through the system. If too many gallstones develop and cannot be passed by the gallbladder, obstructed bile can lead to gallbladder infections.
Gallbladder attacks are usually caused by gallstone formation, but they are also more likely to occur after a large meal when the gallbladder is attempting to release bile in order to aid in digestion. Other risk factors for gallstones and a gallbladder attack include being overweight, being over the age of 60, being diabetic, eating a high fat diet or having a history of gallstone formation.
Symptoms of a gallbladder attack include:
- Pain in the upper right abdomen
- Jaundice of the skin
- Gastrointestinal discomfort
Treating and Preventing Gallbladder Attacks
While not all gallbladder attacks can be prevented, you can reduce your risk by making some healthy lifestyle choices. For example, eating a low-fat diet, getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight are all great ways to limit the formation of gallstones and reduce your risk of a gallbladder attack.
If you suffer a gallbladder attack, it means you should be evaluated by an endocrine specialist. Left untreated, repeated bile blockage can lead to liver problems, infections and put you at a higher risk for certain cancers. Treatment may be as simple as taking some medications to help break down the gallstones and then working towards healthier lifestyle choices, while more serious cases may require surgery.
If you suffer frequent gallbladder attacks and medications aren’t providing relief, your specialist may recommend surgery. The most common operation is a cholecystectomy, which is a procedure to remove the entire gallbladder. Your gallbladder is not an essential organ, as it simply acts as a bile storage tank. Bile will still be produced by the liver, and living without a gallbladder requires minimal changes to your everyday life. This procedure will put an end to gallbladder attacks because gallstones will no longer be able to form inside the organ’s bile ducts.
Other procedures can work to destroy the gallstones and leave the gallbladder in place, but there’s no guarantee that you won’t suffer another attack in the future, which is why most surgeons recommend removing the organ if it’s causing repeated problems. So if you’re dealing with acute pain in the middle right side of your abdomen, especially after eating a large meal, consult with your doctor. A simple test for gallstones can help determine your risk and the best treatment options. For more information, or to talk to a gallbladder specialist in the Twin Cities area, contact Dr. Koeplin’s office today.