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Am I Having a Gallbladder Attack?

Am I Having a Gallbladder Attack?

Every year, about a half million Americans undergo gallbladder surgery for gallstone-related symptoms.

Also called cholelithiasis or biliary colic, a gallbladder attack typically happens when tiny concretions called gallstones form inside your gallbladder and block the ducts that release bile and other digestive fluids. When your gallbladder contracts during digestion, those stones can cause various symptoms.

At Desert West Surgery, our team uses advanced techniques to diagnose and treat gallbladder attacks, relieving pain and other symptoms and preventing them from recurring. Understanding the symptoms associated with gallbladder problems can help you seek treatment immediately.

Gallbladder attack: Know the symptoms

Recognizing the symptoms associated with a gallbladder attack is the key to finding relief and preventing complications.

Belly pain

Gallbladder attacks can cause a lot of belly pain — but not just any belly pain: pain in your upper right abdomen or the center of your abdomen, near where the gallbladder is located. Pain is typically sharp or cramp-like and can vary in intensity.

Back or shoulder pain

Sometimes, belly pain radiates elsewhere via nerve pathways, a phenomenon known as referred pain. This type of pain often happens in your back between your shoulder blades or centers around the area of your right shoulder blade. 

Pain that quickly worsens

Many gallbladder attacks are associated with a sudden onset of pain that may rapidly get worse. This type of intensifying pain can indicate serious complications. Prompt medical attention is essential. 

Nausea or vomiting

Waves of nausea or vomiting can also accompany a gallbladder attack. These reactions can be triggered by the pain you're experiencing or related to an underlying infection or a worsening of your condition.


Fever happens as a result of inflammation or infection in your gallbladder. Without prompt treatment, infection can spread and cause life-threatening complications.

Color changes in your urine, stool, skin, or eyes

When bile can't drain from your gallbladder, it can build up or cause other effects that show up in your skin, eyes, urine, or stool. Specifically, your eyes or skin may appear yellowish (a condition called jaundice), your urine may appear brownish, and your stool may look unusually light.

Treating symptomatic gallstones

Gallstones won't go away on their own. For symptomatic gallstones, typically, we recommend cholecystectomy — a surgical procedure to remove the gallbladder.

Our team offers minimally invasive surgery (called laparoscopy) that uses 2-3 tiny incisions and open surgery with one larger incision. We recommend the optimal technique based on your anatomy, medical history, and other criteria.

If surgery is not an option, we may recommend medication to dissolve the stones. But because stones can — and often do — recur, this approach doesn’t prevent future attacks or cure gallbladder disease. 

Don’t ignore your symptoms

Gallbladder disease is common, but that doesn't mean it's not serious. Delaying treatment can lead to inflammation and serious infections that can be life-threatening.

If you have any symptoms described above, scheduling an evaluation is essential. To learn more, call Desert West Surgery and schedule a visit at the Las Vegas location nearest you.

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