Gallbladder Pain: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, & Complications

gallbladder pain

    Causes of Gallbladder Pain

    The major gallbladder problems that produce gallbladder pain are biliary colic, cholecystitis, gallstones, pancreatitis, and ascending cholangitis. The two major causes of pain can either it can be originated from the gallbladder or it involves in the gallbladder directly. They are due to intermittent or complete blockage of any of the ducts by gallstones; or gallstone sludge and/or inflammation that may accompany irritation or infection of the surrounding tissues when it will partial or the complete obstruction of the ducts which causes pressure and ischemia  to develop in the adjacent tissues.

    Gallstones usually form in the gallbladder, but may form in any of the ducts. If the gallbladder is compressed, then the bile usually goes out through the ducts into the GI tract. However, if the gallstones or gallstone sludge is present, then it can be partial or complete blockage of the ducts with pressure on the surrounding tissue, sometimes enough to cause local ischemia.Infection of the biliary ducts and the gallbladder, can occurs after the gallstone obstruction can cause the pain.


    Gallbladder pain may vary or feel different depending on the cause. Many people with gallstones never experience pain. However, there are some variations in gallbladder pain that help the doctor to make a diagnosis.

    Biliary colic :

    It occurs Sudden and rapidly increasing the pain (ache or pressure) in the right upper abdomen or epigastric area. some people will have pain radiating to the right shoulder (or back pain in the tip of the scapula) and/or also develop nausea and vomiting. The pain usually gets in about 1 to 5 hours although if a mild ache can also persist.

    Cholecystitis :

    Severe steady pain in the right upper abdomen that may radiate to the right shoulder or back, abdominal tenderness when touched or pressed, sweating, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, and bloating; discomfort lasts longer than with biliary colic.

    Acalculous cholecystitis (No gallstones) :

    Acalculous Cholecystitis is the complication of other problems such as trauma or burns, patients have severe symptoms and appear very ill.


    Gallstones from the gallbladder can block the pancreatic duct and cause pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) with upper abdominal pain that may radiate to the back, tender abdomen, more pain after eating, with nausea and vomiting.

    Ascending cholangitis :

    It can cause  fever, abdominalpain, jaundice and even hypotension(low blood pressure), and confusion; it is a medical emergency.


    If you have no gallbladder pain (even if you have gallstones but never had pain), you need no treatment. Some of the patients who had one or two attacks may elect them to avoid treatment. Pain during an acute attack is often treated with morphine. Medical treatments include
    • → Oral bile salt therapy (<50% effective),
    • → Ursodiol (Actigall, for example)
    • → Dissolution, and
    • → Lithotripsy (shock waves).


    The complications of gallbladder pain include discomfort with eating, poor food intake, weight loss, electrolyte abnormalities, consumption of pain medications, and disruption of daily activities. Complications of gallbladder includes in bile duct blockage, serious infections (empyema and gangrene of the gallbladder), pancreatitis, peritonitis, and also infrequently cancer.