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How To Stop A Gallbladder Attack While It Is Happening

Dr. Omer Hassaan Aftab Ahmad

5 min read

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Gallbladder attacks can be excruciatingly painful and disrupt daily life. Gallbladder is a small organ located beneath the liver and plays a crucial role in storing and releasing bile, a digestive fluid. A few factors can trigger the formation of gallstones or lead to inflammation, resulting in a gallbladder attack. Understanding the causes of these attacks is essential for prevention and maintaining overall digestive health.

How To Stop A Gallbladder Attack While It Is Happening

A gallbladder attack is an emergency that requires immediate medical attention. It can be dealt with in the following ways:

1. Pain Management

The excruciating abdominal pain associated with a gallbladder attack requires immediate attention. Pain management is typically the first line of treatment to provide relief during an episode. A doctor may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.

In the case of severe pain or inadequate response to NSAIDs, stronger pain medications may be administered, including opioids. Use these medicines under close medical supervision due to their potential for addiction and side effects. Pain management is a temporary solution to alleviate discomfort and enable individuals to tolerate the pain till they can get proper treatment.

2. Medications

Gallstones, a common cause of gallbladder attacks, may be treated with medication in some cases. Ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) is a medication that a doctor may prescribe this medicine as it can dissolve certain types of gallstones over a period of months.

This treatment is most effective for small cholesterol stones and may not suit everyone. It is best to consult a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate course of action and assess the suitability of medication-based dissolution therapy. 

3. Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy

Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is the most common surgical procedure performed to treat gallbladder attacks and prevent future episodes. It involves the removal of the gallbladder through several small incisions in the abdomen using a laparoscope (a thin, flexible tube with a camera).

This minimally invasive approach offers advantages such as reduced post-operative pain, shorter hospital stays, and quicker recovery compared to open surgery. During the procedure, the surgeon detaches the gallbladder from the liver and moves it, along with any gallstones present. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is generally considered a safe and effective treatment option with a low risk of complications.

4. Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

In cases where gallstones have migrated from the gallbladder and are lodged in the common bile duct, Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), may be performed. ERCP combines endoscopy and fluoroscopy to access and remove gallstones from the bile ducts.

During the procedure, a flexible tube with a light and camera (endoscope) is inserted through the mouth and guided into the small intestine. A contrast dye is then injected, allowing the physician to visualize the bile ducts on X-ray images. ERCP is an effective treatment for managing gallstones that cause obstruction or recurrent gallbladder attacks.

Causes of gallbladder stones (Gallstones)

Gallstones are the primary cause of gallbladder attacks. They are solid deposits present in the gallbladder due to the crystallization of substances like cholesterol or bilirubin. When gallstones obstruct the bile ducts, it leads to intense pain in the upper abdomen, also known as biliary colic.

Gallstones can vary in size and number, and their development can occur due to some factors such as genetics, obesity, a high-fat diet, and rapid weight loss. The reasons that cause gallstones are the culprit behind gallbladder attacks, and taking necessary steps to eliminate these causes to avoid gallbladder stones and attacks.

1. Obesity

Obesity is a significant risk factor for gallbladder attacks and gallstone formation. Excess body weight can contribute to increased cholesterol production, which promotes the formation of gallstones. Additionally, obesity slows down gallbladder emptying, leading to the concentration of bile and an increased likelihood of stone formation.

2. Rapid Weight Loss

Sudden and drastic weight loss, such as that achieved through crash diets or bariatric surgery, can increase the risk of gallbladder attacks. Rapid weight loss disrupts the balance of bile components, leading to the formation of gallstones. Additionally, during rapid weight loss, the gallbladder may not contract effectively and can contribute to bile stagnation and subsequent stone development.

3. Poor Diet

A diet high in saturated fats, cholesterol, and processed foods can contribute to gallstone formation and gallbladder attacks. Consuming excessive amounts of unhealthy fats can lead to the overproduction of cholesterol in the liver, increasing the likelihood of cholesterol gallstone formation.

4. Hormonal Factors

Hormonal changes, particularly in women, can influence the occurrence of gallbladder attacks. Estrogen, a female sex hormone, has increased the risk of gallstone formation. Hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy, or the use of contraceptives containing estrogen can contribute to gallstone development.

5. Cholesterol level

Bile contains excessive amounts of cholesterol, which can contribute to the formation of gallstones. When cholesterol levels in bile become too high, they can result in precipitation and crystallization of cholesterol, forming gallstones.

These stones can block the bile ducts, which results in gallbladder attacks and causes severe abdominal pain. Maintain a healthy diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol to prevent excessive cholesterol buildup in bile and reduce the risk of gallstone formation. Regular exercise and weight management also play a crucial role in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.

6. Sedentary lifestyle

Leading a sedentary lifestyle, characterized by minimal physical activity and prolonged periods of sitting or inactivity, can disrupt your overall health, including the gallbladder. A sedentary lifestyle is associated with an increased risk of obesity, which can contribute to gallstone formation and gallbladder attacks.

Lack of physical activity can slow gallbladder emptying, impair digestion, and promote the accumulation of cholesterol in bile. It is essential to incorporate regular exercise and avoid prolonged periods of sitting or inactivity throughout the day to prevent gallbladder attacks and maintain optimal gallbladder health. Staying active can aid digestive health and prevent many diseases, including gallstones.

Symptoms Of A Gallbladder Attack

A gallbladder attack typically involves the following symptoms:

1. Abdominal Pain

The most obvious symptom of a gallbladder attack is severe and persistent abdominal pain. This pain typically originates in the upper-right quadrant of the abdomen, just below the ribcage. It can radiate to the back or shoulder blades.

The pain often appears out of the blue and intensifies rapidly, reaching its peak within an hour. The sensation is often described as sharp, stabbing, or cramping. In some cases, the pain may be intermittent, with episodes lasting anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. The intensity and duration of the pain can vary from person to person.

2. Nausea and Vomiting

During a gallbladder attack, individuals may experience bouts of nausea and vomiting. The pain and discomfort in the upper abdomen can trigger these symptoms.

Vomiting is usually an involuntary response to the intense pain or digestive disturbances caused by gallbladder inflammation or gallstones. While these symptoms can be distressing, they often provide a crucial clue in identifying a gallbladder attack.

3. Fever and Chills

Gallbladder attacks can trigger an immune response in the body leading to fever and chills. Inflammation of the gallbladder, known as cholecystitis, can result in an infection, leading to an elevated body temperature. Fever is typically low-grade but can occasionally reach higher levels.

Chills, often described as sudden bouts of feeling cold and shivering, may accompany the fever. It is crucial not to ignore fever as it may indicate an urgent need for medical attention.

4. Jaundice and Yellowing of the Skin

In some cases, a gallbladder attack can result in jaundice, a condition characterized by the yellowing of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes. Jaundice occurs when the bile flow from the liver to the small intestine is obstructed by gallstones or inflammation.

When this happens, bilirubin, a yellow pigment produced during the breakdown of red blood cells, builds up in the body, causing the characteristic yellow discoloration. Jaundice is usually accompanied by dark urine and pale stools, indicating a disruption in the normal bile flow.


Recognizing the symptoms of a gallbladder attack is crucial for early diagnosis and prompt medical intervention. Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, jaundice, and fever are common indicators of a gallbladder attack. The main cause of gallbladder attacks is gallstones.

Some factors may increase the chances of gallstone formation, such as obesity, etc. Treatment options include pain management, medication to dissolve gallstones, laparoscopic cholecystectomy for gallbladder removal, endoscopic procedures to remove gallstones from the bile ducts, and lifestyle modifications.

Seeking appropriate treatment based on the underlying cause can provide relief, prevent complications, and improve the overall quality of life for individuals experiencing gallbladder attacks. You can consult a Gastroenterologist in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad and other cities of Pakistan through oladoc for the treatment of gallstones.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Omer Hassaan Aftab Ahmad
Dr. Omer Hassaan Aftab Ahmad - Author Dr. Omer Hassaan Aftab Ahmad is a Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist practicing in Islamabad with special interest in Interventional Gastroenterology (Endoscopy, colonoscopy etc.)and Liver Transplant. Dr. Omer Hassaan has over 13 years of experience in field of Medicine.

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