A gallbladder attack can be a painful condition that occurs when the gallbladder is inflamed or infected, with or without gallstones. In some cases, lifestyle changes can prevent future attacks, or it may be necessary to have surgery to treat gallstones or remove the gallbladder.
Sometimes lifestyle changes may prevent future gallbladder attacks or at least reduce their severity. Often gallstones occur in people who eat a high-fat diet. If you are overweight, your doctor will advise you to lose weight slowly. Rapid weight loss can trigger gallbladder problems, so you should aim to lose one or two pounds per week unless your doctor advises you differently. Regardless of whether you need to lose weight, you should eat a low-fat diet by avoiding fried and heavily processed foods. Switch any dairy products to low-fat or fat-free varieties or try dairy alternatives, and choose lean cuts of meat. Other dietary recommendations are much like a heart-healthy diet. You should choose complex carb sources that are slow-digesting and increase your intake of fruits and vegetables.
During a current gallbladder attack, pain-relievers are usually prescribed to make you more comfortable until the attack runs its course or other treatments work. If there is any indication there is an infection, you will also be prescribed antibiotics. Some people with a few, small gallstones may be prescribed medication that helps dissolve gallstones. The medication may be taken for years because it does not work instantly. Oral bile salts can be another treatment option because it supplements naturally-occurring bile salts to help break-down cholesterol that ordinarily would form into stones and cause an attack.
Several procedures can be used to either break up gallstones or remove the gallbladder entirely. Lithotripsy uses shock waves to break up the gallstones into smaller pieces so they are easier to pass. In other instances, removal of the gallbladder is the best course of action because it eliminates future attacks. Some surgical procedures, such as weight loss surgery, include removal of the gallbladder since there is a high risk of gallbladder problems after the procedure. Removing the gallbladder at the same time as weight loss surgery reduces the chance of needing future surgery.
Many gallbladder attacks can be managed with acute treatment for the symptoms and lifestyle changes. In severe cases, gallstones may need to be broken up so they can be passed with less pain or the gallbladder may need to be removed to prevent future issues.
For more information on gallbladder attacks, reach out to a gastroenterology medical professional.