Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of a Gallbladder Attack

The gallbladder is an organ that most of us rarely think about, located below the liver in the upper-right part of the abdomen. The gallbladder stores bile, which helps the body break down fat and vitamins from food by delivering bile (a combination of fluids, fat, and cholesterol) to the small intestine.  

Potential gallbladder problems include the development of gallstones, inflammation of the gallbladder, bile duct stones, gallbladder disease, and other more rare conditions. Most gallbladder conditions share similar symptoms. 


Symptoms of gallbladder problems can be mild and intermittent or severe and frequent. Nausea and vomiting are common with most gallbladder conditions. Right upper abdominal pain after meals is a less common symptom, as are jaundice (yellow-tinted skin or eyes), weight loss, and color changes in the urine or stool. Digestive issues including acid reflux and gas combined with other symptoms may be caused by chronic gallbladder disease. Chills or an unexplained fever can be symptoms of an infection. 

Abdominal pain that comes and goes for hours at a time, sometimes combined with jaundice and nausea, could be a sign of bile duct stones. Chronic diarrhea for at least three months may be a sign of chronic gallbladder disease.

Most people who have gallstones don’t have any symptoms, but the most common sign of them is sudden pain in the upper-right abdomen, often after a fatty meal. The pain can last for several hours, and can radiate to other areas of the body, including the back and chest. 

Getting Help

A gallbladder attack is a medical emergency. If you experience intense abdominal pain, seek medical attention immediately. If gallstones are the cause of the pain, you may be sent home to see if they pass safely on their own. If you have repeat attacks or the pain doesn’t ease, or in the case of some other gallbladder conditions, you may need surgery to remove the gallbladder and clean stones from the duct. Fortunately, most patients don’t experience any major changes in digestion after gallbladder surgery.   

The board-certified surgeons at Muskegon Surgical Associates are skilled at treating all types of gallbladder conditions. Contact us to schedule an appointment.

Sources: Muskegon Surgical Associates, WebMD and Healthline