Gallbladder pain starts in the upper right or center of your belly. The discomfort is mild at first, but then it steadily gets worse.
The pain may radiate further than your abdomen, causing pain in your back and shoulders.
As if the pain weren’t bad enough, you might also find yourself vomiting with serious nausea.
This onset of slow, steady, and worsening pain is known as a gallbladder attack and can affect 10 to 15 percent of the American population.
For these twenty-five million people, gallstones are typically to blame. Some will need to be treated with gallbladder surgery.
Keep reading to learn more about gallstone attacks and the surgery used to treat this debilitating condition.
At Healthy Life Bariatrics, we can help alleviate your gallbladder pain with safe and effective laparoscopic surgery. All bariatric, post-bariatric body contouring, and general surgery procedures are performed by world-class surgeon Dr. Babak Moeinolmolki. Call today to schedule a consultation.
Why Does the Gallbladder Cause Pain?
The gallbladder is a small organ tucked under your liver shaped like a pear. The organ’s job is to store and deliver bile.
What is Bile?
Bile is a liquid produced by your liver that breaks down fat from the food you eat.
When you swallow food that contains fat, your gallbladder will deliver the bile to your small intestine via a series of ducts, which helps with digestion.
A gallstone attack occurs when bile is obstructed from entering or exiting the gallbladder.
The attack typically occurs when the mechanism that releases the bile malfunctions, leading to an abundance of bile inside the gallbladder. This can lead to irritation, inflammation, and aching pain.
What Does Gallbladder Pain Feel Like?
Some have described the pain as a gnawing discomfort. You may think you have heartburn or gas at first, but then the pain intensifies, alerting you that something is seriously wrong.
As the pain spreads across your upper body, and as nausea and sometimes vomiting occurs, you might find yourself in excruciating discomfort for up to twenty minutes to an hour. That’s how long a gallbladder attack can last.
The good news is that treatment is available. The goal of gallbladder surgery is to prevent attacks from recurring while regulating your digestive system.
What Other Symptoms Can Accompany Gallbladder Pain?
When the bile becomes backed up into the gallbladder, a backup can occur. This is similar to a septic system in a house, and we all know what can happen when septic or sewer backup occurs.
A backup of bile, which is composed of fats, salts, cholesterols, and other substances, can infect your bloodstream, leading to jaundice.
Jaundice is a condition that causes your skin and the whites of your eyes to turn yellow. You could also develop chills, fever, light-colored poop, and urine that turns the color of tea.
Gallstones Are a Common Cause of Gallbladder Pain
An overabundance of cholesterol in your bile can cause crystals to form. These crystals clump together to form gallstones.
Gallstones can be tiny or large, depending on a range of factors. The stones could be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball.
You could be carrying gallstones around right now and not know it.
Only when a blockage occurs do the symptoms begin, including moderate to severe pain.
A gallbladder duct blockage happens when a gallstone gets lodged against the duct, preventing it from opening or closing.
Duct blockage is the most common form of a gallbladder attack.
What Are Gallstones?
Gallstones are hardened deposits composed of digestive fluid.
The stones form in your gallbladder, which is also filled with bile. Think of ice cubes floating in a glass of water.
You may have one gallstone or several. In many cases, you can live with gallstones in your gallbladder just fine, and they never cause symptoms.
For others, gallbladder pain results, which leads them to seek treatment from a general surgeon like Dr. Moeinolmolki.
Other Causes of Gallbladder Pain (Gallbladder Attack)
Any condition that keeps the gallbladder from operating properly can cause an attack. These include cholecystitis (redness and swelling in the gallbladder), abscesses, tumors, and abnormal tissue growth, to name a few.
Women tend to have a higher propensity for developing gallstones, with women aged 20 to 60 the most at risk.
A surge of estrogen during pregnancy and hormone replacement therapy can also lead to the condition, as can birth control pills.
After age 60, both men and women are equally at risk for gallbladder issues.
Can You Treat Gallbladder Pain Without Surgery?
The best way to treat gallbladder issues without surgery is to follow a healthy lifestyle. Eat a balanced diet, engage in regular exercise, drink lots of water, and get plenty of sunshine.
You are more likely to experience gallstones and gallbladder pain when you live the opposite of a healthy lifestyle.
Eating high-calorie foods, refined carbohydrates, and low amounts of fiber can increase your chances of experiencing a gallbladder attack. You are more likely to experience gallstones and attacks if you are obese, as well.
Lowering your body mass index (BMI) and attaining a healthy weight through traditional means or via medical treatment like gastric sleeve surgery, can help lower the risk of gallstones and gallbladder attacks.
Laparoscopic Surgery Can Help with Gallbladder Pain
Gallbladder surgery is the best method we currently have for treating gallstone pain.
The procedure is performed laparoscopically, which is minimally invasive, requires small incisions, and comes with little downtime.
During the procedure, which is referred to medically as a cholecystectomy, the gallbladder is completely removed.
You can still function perfectly fine without your gallbladder. You simply won’t suffer from future gallstone attacks following gallbladder removal surgery.
Does Gallbladder Surgery Work for Pain?
Laparoscopic gallbladder surgery is safe and effective at treating pain caused by gallstones and duct blockage.
The surgery eliminates gallstones located in the gallbladder.
The surgery does not remove the stones in the bile duct, however.
While rare, gallstones can form in the bile duct years after gallbladder removal. Ask Dr. Moeinolmolki about this and other surgical risks during your initial consultation.
What is Gallbladder Surgery Recovery Like?
Laparoscopic gallbladder surgical recovery is faster and less painful than you would experience with a more “open” type of surgery.
You can expect to return home the same day. Your surgeon will let you know when to return to your normal activities, which typically happens after six weeks.
Are There Risks to Gallbladder Surgery?
The overall risks to laparoscopic surgery to remove the gallbladder are extremely low. The most serious complications include internal bleeding, infection, bile duct injury, and general anesthesia risks.
Other risks include gallstones remaining in the abdominal cavity, bile that leaks into the abdomen, and the liver being cut.
You can reduce risks to your health by choosing a reputable surgeon when experiencing gallbladder problems.
Why Choose Dr. Babak Moeinolmolki as Your Gallbladder Surgeon
Dr. Babak Moeinolmolki has decades of experience as a bariatric surgeon, post-bariatric body contouring surgeon, and general surgeon.
Dr. Moeinolmolki is fellowship-trained and known for his outstanding bedside manner, and meticulous surgical technique.
If you have a history of gallstones or you are currently experiencing abdominal pain related to gallbladder issues, surgery can help.
Meet with Dr. Moein, as his patients affectionately call him, during a private, one-on-one meeting to discuss your gallbladder issues.
Telehealth consultations are also available as a first-time option until an in-office meeting can be scheduled.
At Healthy Life Bariatrics, we want to improve your health and life. We can start by alleviating your gallbladder issues and abdominal pain. Call today throughout Los Angeles to schedule a consultation – (310)694-4486.