The gallbladder is a small organ that helps in the food digestion process by storing and releasing bile and other digestive fluids made by the liver. Gallstones develop when these fluids solidify and harden. A gallstone can become lodged in the bile duct — the tube through which bile is released — and block the flow of digestive fluids into the small intestine.
Some gallstones are harmless and do not cause pain or any other symptoms. Others can cause the gallbladder to become irritated, inflamed, or infected, and lead to a medical emergency if the infected gallbladder bursts.
If you are experiencing a gallbladder attack or significant pain associated with gallstones in Northern California, seek immediate medical attention at a Dignity Health North State emergency room. Use our online waiting service, InQuicker, to select an estimated arrival time to your nearest ER. If you can’t make it to the ER, call 911 for the quickest medical care.
Identifying Your Symptoms of Gallstones
As many as 80 percent of people with gallstones never experience symptoms — most will not even know that they have them. Typically, symptoms develop only if gallstones move into the bile duct.
The main symptom of a gallbladder attack is severe pain in the right upper abdomen. You may feel the pain spread to your upper back or shoulders. Pain may be also accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
What Causes Gallstones?
The causes of gallstones are not fully understood. However, you are more likely to develop gallstones if you:
- Are age 40 or older
- Are female
- Are of Native American or Mexican descent
- Have a family history of gallstones
- Have experienced rapid weight loss
- Have a history of obesity
Gallstone Treatment at Dignity Health North State
If you have symptoms of a gallbladder attack, your doctor will likely recommend surgery to remove your gallbladder. This is to prevent a second attack — if you have a gallbladder attack, there is a 70 percent chance of having another one. You do not need your gallbladder to live; however, you may experience temporary problems with digestion right after surgery.
In many cases, the gallbladder can be removed with a minimally invasive surgical procedure. This surgical method relies on several small incisions to accomplish treatment goals. Compared with open abdominal surgery, this approach causes less discomfort and results in a quicker recovery.
If you are concerned about abdominal pain that is not indicative of a gallbladder attack, Find a Doctor at Dignity Health North State to rule out gallstones as a cause.
Dignity Health North State provides expert surgical services for the treatment of gallstones in Mt. Shasta, Red Bluff, and Redding, CA.