The gallbladder is a pear-shaped sac under the liver that stores bile, a liquid that aids in the digestion of fats. If a bile duct or tube that leads out of the gall bladder gets blocked or infected, you may experience painful inflammation. Hard deposits known as gallstones can form in the cystic duct, the bile tube connecting the gallbladder and the common bile duct. The common bile duct carries bile to the small intestine to help with fat digestion. Gallstones may cause pain during a gallbladder attack. These stones are composed of a variable mix of cholesterol, bilirubin, and calcium. While most individuals with gallstones don't experience symptoms, the stones may cause inflammation or block the cystic duct. Bile can also become clogged within the gallbladder or ducts, resulting in similar symptoms. Inflammation of the gallbladder, cholecystitis, can occur even when no gallstones are present. A gallbladder attack may happen suddenly and without warning. Pain from the attack is often severe and sometimes requires immediate hospitalization.
A typical warning sign associated with a gallbladder attack is severe abdominal pain or biliary colic. An intensifying pain in the upper portion of the abdomen below the breastbone, often on the right side, may indicate a gallbladder attack. Pain can last between one to five hours. It remains constant regardless of urinating or passing gas. The intake of fatty foods often triggers the pain, which can occur at any time, even while sleeping. Episodes of biliary colic may be infrequent. After one painful attack, it may be another few months before another occurs. A common blood test can establish the presence of increased liver enzymes, which may indicate a blockage.
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