Gallbladder pain or biliary colic may point to some complication with your gallbladder. But, it can also occur due to complications with other surrounding organs. You never pay much attention to your gallbladder till you experience some sort of trouble. When some complication arises, you can suffer from excruciating pain. Since your gallbladder is located near vital organs, the pain can refer to some other problem. Therefore, you need to get the pain evaluated by a medical professional. It will help you determine if the pain originates from your heart, muscles or other organs within the digestive system. With a proper diagnosis, you can get effective treatment to alleviate the pain.
What Do You Mean By Gallbladder Pain?
The gallbladder is the organ located under your ribcage, in your upper right abdominal region. You can find the pear-shaped organ under the liver. In normal cases, gallbladder stores bile, which helps with digestion. The bile is the compound produced by your liver to digest the fat. It also helps your digestive system to absorb fat-soluble vitamins as well as minerals. The four-inch-long gallbladder can perform the functions painlessly. But, a block or problem to the gallbladder can affect its function. So, you can feel pain and discomfort.
When you experience gallbladder pain, it can start from the upper side of the abdomen and radiate to your right shoulder. In most cases, people can experience pain a few hours after eating a heavy evening. It mostly starts in the evening or night and wakes you up from deep sleep. You can confuse it with gas and try to change positions. But, burping, changing position or passing gas does not offer relief. Several causes can lead to the pain in your gallbladder. So, read ahead to get comprehensive information.
Causes Of Gallbladder Pain
Some problems with the gallbladder can result in pain as well as discomfort. You can experience biliary colic due to various reasons. The following are the common problems associated with gallbladder resulting in pain:
It is the most common cause of gallbladder pain. Gallstones are nothing but hard particles. It forms due to the imbalance of the substance that develops bile. Bile is the fluid that aids in your digestion. Gallstones can also occur due to the inefficiency in emptying the bile as it should. The particle can vary in size. So, you can see the stones of small sizes to one of the sizes of a golf ball. Gallstones can form slowly over some time. The affected person can develop one stone, multiple stones, or a combination of both. You can have gallstones without experiencing any signs. In such cases, the stones never interfere with your normal functioning of the digestive system.
You can experience pain when the gallstones block one of the ducts present in your biliary tract (it is the part of the body encompassing your bile ducts as well as the gallbladder). You can feel relief from the pain when the gallstones change its position. So, you can overcome pain after the unblocking of the bile ducts. If left untreated, you can experience serious complications due to the gallstones. It can lead to inflammation and infection of pancreas, common bile duct or your gallbladder. Therefore, it can pose a great risk to your health. In rare cases, you can experience gallbladder rupture, gangrene or bowel obstruction.
Thickened bile salts also referred to as biliary sludge can form in your gallbladder. The sludge can cause blockage of bile emptying. So, it can result in the same situation as the gallstone obstruction. The inability of healthy bile emptying can result in pain and other discomforts. You can observe signs and symptoms similar to gallstone formation.
The inflammation of the gallbladder can result in pain. The condition is also referred to as cholecystitis. It can develop due to the formation of gallstones (known commonly as acute cholecystitis). In rare cases, the condition can develop without gallstones formation (called as acalculous cholecystitis).
The gallstone can get stuck in your gallbladder. It results in inflammation. So, you can experience abdominal pain. The problem can also cause other signs like:
- Loss of appetite
The condition can lead to biliary colic. You can experience a cramping or dull pain in your right side of the upper abdomen.
You can experience the same symptoms as acute cholecystitis when you suffer from acalculous cholecystitis. But, the problem does not occur due to the presence of gallstones. The exact issue resulting in the problem remains unclear. But, the poor quality of bile and problems in the blood flow within your gallbladder can result in the condition. The problem is more prominent in people who have suffered a severe burn injury, stay on mechanical ventilation, or suffer from a major infection.
Acute cholangitis refers to the infection affecting your common bile duct. The gallstones are the major cause leading to the obstruction and subsequent infection. It can also occur due to bile duct stricture. People suffering from cancer in the following organs can suffer from the problem:
- Bile duct
- Duodenum (The first part of your small intestine)
Acute cholangitis can cause severe pain in the upper, right side of your abdomen. You can also suffer from fever and yellowing of the skin. In severe cases, the affected person can suffer from confusion and low blood pressure.
In rare cases, people affected by cholecystitis (gallbladder inflammation) can experience gallbladder rupture. It can burst to open your gallbladder resulting in pain and other complications. The rupture of the gallbladder can also occur when you suffer an injury or trauma. People involved in vehicle accidents or contact sports can suffer from gallbladder rupture. It can result in sharp and severe gallbladder pain. You can experience pain in the upper right quadrant of your abdomen.
It is the gallbladder motility syndrome, which results in the inability of the bile to physically move in a proper direction through your tubular bile duct. The disorder affects the sphincter of Oddi. Sphincter of Oddi refers to the muscular valve that controls the bile flow. Therefore, the improper drainage of the bile can result in pain and other signs like nausea/vomiting.
Functional Gallbladder Disease
Functional gallbladder disease is also known as chronic acalculous gallbladder dysfunction. It refers to the gallbladder disease that occurs without the presence of gallstones. You can experience the symptoms associated with the problem suddenly or chronically.
It is a rare form of cancer. The condition remains undetected until it reaches the advanced stage. The problem can cause gallbladder pain. You can also experience other signs like:
- Jaundice (Yellowing of skin)
- Weight loss
Symptoms Of Gallbladder Pain
When you experience gallbladder pain you can experience several symptoms. In such cases, you need to monitor for the following signs:
Pain In Abdomen
You can experience pain in the upper right section or mid-section of your abdomen. In most cases, the pain and come and go. You can suffer from mild to severe pain. Irregular or frequent pain can cause distress in your life. In severe cases, the pain can radiate to your chest as well as back.
When you suffer from any type of gallbladder problem, it can cause nausea or vomiting. The long-term gallbladder problems and disorders can result in long-standing digestive problems. So, it can result in frequent nausea or vomiting.
Fever Or Shaking Chills
The fevers and chill you suffer indicate to an infection in your body. So, when combined with the other gallbladder complications, it points to gallbladder infection or other problems.
Changes In Bowel Movements
The gallbladder is one of the important organs of your digestive system. So, any problem in the organ can result in changes in your bowel habits. It can trigger adverse signs. The unexplained and frequent diarrhea can indicate chronic gallbladder disease. If you observe chalky or light-colored stools, then it points towards problems with your bile ducts.
Changes in Urine Appearance
Your urine can indicate any underlying health problem. If you have gallbladder issues, then the urine color can change. You can observe darker colored urine. It indicates blockage of the bile duct.
Bile stored in gallbladder needs to reach your intestine for digestion. When the liver bile fails to reach the intestine due to bile ducts blocks, it causes yellowing of your skin. In most cases, the block in your bile duct occurs due to gallstones.
When To See Your Doctor For Gallbladder Pain
If you suspect you have gallbladder pain, then you need to seek an appointment with your doctor as early as possible. In some cases, the symptoms can go away after some time. But, you need to see the doctor to get proper treatment even if the symptoms have gone away. It is to ensure that you do not suffer from severe disease leading to fatal complications in the future. So, you need to see your doctor when you experience the following symptoms:
- Intense or severe pain that makes you uncomfortable
- Increase in pain when you inhale (taking a breath in)
- Pain that lasts for more than five hours
- Jaundice (yellow skin or whites of the eyes turn yellow)
- Increase in heartbeat
- Persistent vomiting
- Tea-colored or dark urine
- Light-colored stools
When you observe such signs, go to the emergency room. You need immediate medical assistance to manage the problem effectively.
Diagnosing Gallbladder Pain
You need to get to the bottom of your gallbladder pain. So, you need to seek the assistance of a medical professional. Since the pain you suffer due to the problem can occur due to other medical conditions, your doctor performs diagnostic tests to eliminate the other causes. The following health issues can lead to upper abdominal pain:
- Liver diseases (for example, hepatitis)
- GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)
- Peptic Ulcer Disease
- Acute Coronary Syndrome (a heart attack or unstable angina)
The above-mentioned health problems can trigger upper abdomen pain also known as epigastric pain. You can confuse it with gallbladder pain. Therefore, your doctor can suggest the following diagnostic test to detect the origin of pain:
Your doctor will ask you several questions regarding the discomfort you suffer. You need to mention the exact location of the pain, its frequency, and other signs you experience. The doctor can also ask you questions about when you suffer from the pain. So, you need to explain if you feel the pain after eating a specific type of food. You need to specify f you suffer from other symptoms like vomiting, nausea or fever.
In most cases, your doctor can detect any problem during the physical examination. Your doctor focuses on the right upper part of your abdomen. It is the location of your gallbladder. Your doctor can check the areas for the following:
- Skin changes
- Guarding (it is referred to the tensing of your abdominal wall)
During the physical test, your doctor can also perform a technique called Murphy’s sign. You need to take a deep breath during the maneuver. At the same time, your doctor presses on your gallbladder. The presence of pain indicates an inflamed gallbladder.
Your doctor can order a blood test to check the complete blood count (CBC). It can help determine if you suffer from any infection. The doctor can also order a bilirubin level test to detect issues with the functioning of the gallbladder.
An imaging test can confirm the gallbladder pain. It can detect the gallbladder disease resulting in pain and other symptoms. The following imaging tests can offer a clear and complete picture of your gallbladder and its problems:
- Ultrasound (in most cases, it is the only test the doctor orders to detect the problem)
- HIDA (Hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid) scan
- CT (Computed tomography) scan
- Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP)
Treatment For Alleviating Gallbladder Pain
The treatment for pain in the gallbladder depends on the underlying cause. So, once your doctor diagnoses the precise cause, you get an effected treatment plan based on your symptoms. The following options are available for eliminating the gallbladder pain.
Also known as the wait and watch approach, your doctor monitors the pain constantly. It is the ideal approach for people with asymptomatic gallstones. The surgical option is only taken when the gallstones start to cause problems.
The medication never clears the problem triggered by gallstones. But, it is used to offer you pain relief. So, your doctor can prescribe an NSAID (Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory) medication to ease the pain caused by gallstones.
Your doctor prescribes antibiotics for infection occurring in your gallbladder or biliary tract. In most cases, the infection occurs due to the presence of gallstones.
Your doctor can suggest an invasive procedure to alleviate the pain in your gallbladder. After detecting the exact issue, your doctor can suggest removing the whole gallbladder or rectifying the specific problem (like gallstone removal) using the invasive procedures.
It is the option your doctor selects to completely remove the gallbladder. It can help manage the gallbladder pain. Your doctor can opt from the following two methods to remove the gallbladder.
- Open Cholecystectomy
It is the procedure that removes the gallbladder after making a large cut in your abdomen. The procedure takes longer time to heal due to the large incisions.
- Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy
As the name suggests, the laparoscopic methods use small incisions to remove the gallbladder. The experienced surgeon uses specialized instruments for the procedure. So, the procedure takes only a small amount of time to heal.
ERCP (Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography)
It is an invasive diagnostic procedure performed by a gastroenterologist to detect the issues with pancreatic and bile duct. Apart from diagnosing the problem, it can also relieve an obstructed bile duct.
Preventing Gallbladder Pain
Is it possible to prevent gallbladder pain? You can adopt some steps in your life to ensure the good health of your gallbladder. It will help prevent complications like gallstones, which leads to pain and other issues. Following a healthy lifestyle can help you prevent unwanted complications in your life. Therefore, by adopting the following strategies, you can lead a life without gallbladder problems:
It is important to see your doctor for periodic health checkups. It will help detect any underlying health problem you suffer early. With timely intervention, you can prevent any other complications.
You need to include exercise in your daily schedule. Exercising can improve your blood flow and keep your organs healthy. You can also keep your weight under check with regular physical activity.
Eat Well-Balanced Diet
You need to eat a healthy diet consisting of all the necessary nutrients needed to keep your body fit. Your diet must consist of vegetable, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and low-fat dairy products. Include spices to keep your body safe from infections.
Maintain An Ideal Weight
You need to maintain the correct weight. If you are obese, then try to reduce your weight. But, you need to avoid rapid weight loss. Always reduce gradually as sudden weight loss can affect your body adversely.
Avoid Processed Foods
You need to avoid processed foods as it contains high-fat content. The excess saturated fat can elevate your cholesterol levels. So, it can cause problems with your gallbladder. Therefore, avoid foods high in saturated fat.
Talk To Your Doctor
Some medication or therapy can lead to the development of gallbladder stones and subsequent pain. So, if you take medications for cholesterol or undergoing hormone replacement therapy, then talk to your doctor. You can get information about whether the medication increases your risk of development of gallstones.
You need to understand the reason for your pain in the abdomen. It is essential to seek a professional opinion to determine the exact cause of the pain. By gaining knowledge about your gallbladder pain can help you take the right steps to manage the problem effectively and prevent any adverse complications. With proper medical care, you can get back to your life within no time. Therefore, gain comprehensive information and take necessary action.View Article Sources