Gallbladder anecdotes please!

6 months ago, I had a few bouts of upper-abdominal pain. Very uncomfortable, passed after a bit, never seemed tied to any particular type of food (I kept a food diary for a bit), seemed to respond to Gas-X (simethicone). Stopped completely after a couple of weeks.

Spoke with the doctor during this. My first thought of course was gallbladder as I’m definitely in the 4-F category: Fat, female, forty (well, fifty), fertile (if declining)… only the pain was central vs right quadrant. That plus the response to Gas-x let us decide that it was quite likely gas, and unless it persisted there was no immediate need to try to diagnose further.

Fast forward to Saturday night - and the pain is as bad or worse than it ever as 6 months ago. Gas-x didn’t touch it. I didn’t want to throw up (it would have hurt the tummy muscles) but it didn’t seem like all that bad an idea either.

Bear in mind we were snowed in under 18 inches of unshoveled snow, so making it to the ER woulda been… problematic. A 2 AM phone call to the 24-hour nurseline suggested that it wasn’t something that required an ER visit anyhow. Pain eased after a few hours. As with 6 months ago, the pain was the whole upper abdomen, most severe just below the solar plexus.

I will be seeing the doc this week, so don’t worry on that score. In fact I phoned today to try to get in and they’re closed due to the snow.

Anyway - for those of you who’ve had gallbladder issues, do my symptoms sound about right?

And - have any of you had itching? For the past 24 hours my hands and feet have been HORRIBLY itchy. This I know can be a sign of liver problems resulting from the gallstones but I don’t have any other signs of jaundice. I’m debating whether to phone the doctor’s answering service today just to be sure on that. Only the phone conv would be something like this:

me: “Yeah, I think I’ve got gallstones”
Real Doc: “Have you ever been diagnosed with them?”
me: “No, but my gut was really sore last night and Doctor Google says so”.
Real Doc: “You… diagnosed yourself… on the internet???”
me: “Well yeah, I’ve got a pretty good track record with that, what’s the problem?” (I do actually… self-diagnosed RLS in myself and encopresis in my kid, both borne out by real docs).
Doc: “Er, this isn’t really an emergency since you say the pain is gone”
me: “But my hands and feet itch. I’m starting to have very weird fantasies involving gloves made of 20-grit sandpaper”.
Doc: Oh, well, then your liver just ran screaming for the hills. Might as well get your will up to date.

(I’m leaning toward calling the doc - it’s not like I’d be waking 'em up anyway, and better safe than sorry).

But, anecdotes please!

I have had similar problems (without the itching) and come to the same conclusions (gallstones), but I haven’t followed up as it hasn’t happened in several years. Basically, your doctor will send you to get an ultrasound to look for stones. If you have them he will likely recommend getting your gallbladder removed. This can be done laparoscopically and is a fairly simple operation requiring no more than a night in the hospital. However, if it is done on an emergency basis (inflammation / infection), it is much more serious.

One thing that appears to help is to drink a lot of water as soon as you feel it coming on. I got this tip from (where else?) the internet and I don’t believe there is any scientific basis for it, but when I have done it, the pain has subsided fairly rapidly, as opposed to sticking around a couple of hours.

From my anecdote, gallstones themselves aren’t necessarily problematic, and you don’t necessarily need stones to have a problem. Even one tiny stone or sludge wedged into some of the ducts on the way out of the gallbladder can mess you up. They did all the tests on me and found no gallstones, but diagnosed it as some type of gallbladder issue, which went away and as of yet hasn’t required surgery. The doctor seemed to assume that because a was a middle aged white woman my gallbladder should come out almost by default, but he wasn’t quite able to make the case for it.

Getting dehydrated may have contributed to my problem. I was dehydrated when I went to the ER.

My doctors lately pretty much send me to the Internet, so I don’t think they’ll be surprised you looked there.

IIRC, any of the signs of jaundice mean you should be taking this seriously pronto, though.

Call. Just call. What is the worst that can happen? The doc rolls his eyes b/c you read about this on the internet? (Tell him you looked at the Mayo Clinic site, if you want something reliable - and actually look at it, it has good info!)

The doc does say your liver is punking out and you need to go to the ER. I’ve got news for you - you calling is not going to cause the emergency, just save your life if it is really happening!

Good advice from both of you on avoiding dehydration / drinking lots of water - couldn’t hurt, and might indeed help.

I did speak with the doc. She wasn’t too alarmed at the itching, especially as right now I have no other signs of jaundice. I do have bloodwork scheduled for tomorrow (Chem12, whatever that is, and CBC), and will get a referral for an ultrasound.

The itching is strange. I sometimes have foot itches as a symptom of Restless Legs Syndrome, and running them under water just cool enough to avoid cooking, short circuits the itches. Last night, hot water aggravated things. I’m about to go stick 'em under cold water in the bathtub (brrrrr). That might help. I sure hope so… the itching was so bad that even with a sleeping pill I got only 2 hours of sleep.

I didn’t itch, I just felt like someone had rammed a knife into my gut.

Had my gallbladder out via lap procedure, no problems since.

Thanks. I did call - though my gut (hah!) told me this wasn’t likely to be THAT urgent, I figured given the odd combo of symptoms it couldn’t hurt.

Fortunately I got my regular doc (of a group practice, any of them could have called) and this doc knows I’m not excessively stupid about health-related issues. She also laughted at the “Doctor Google” quip.

Now to see if that half of a turkey and swiss sammich tries to bite back.

You will probably want to stick to a low fat diet until you rule out gallbladder issues.

I just had mine removed before Halloween. I had been fighting it off-an-on for 2 years, which is much longer than I should have. The doctor and I thought it was stomach issues and we were treating it wrong.

Your symptoms (other than the itching) are very similar to mine. Severe pain in the upper abdomen, just under the rib cage. Gas-X sometimes helps, but not always. Throwing up seems like a good idea and eventually becomes a good idea.

The pain can come in waves – say 3 waves for 45 minutes. Mine eventually became non-stop for 5 or 6 hours. The pain can also travel up the right side of your back. In general, the doctors said that the actual location of the pain can vary from patient to patient – yours might be centrally located and someone else’s might be on their right side.

In my case, the gall-bladder irritated my liver and threw the liver numbers off. Maybe this is the source of your itching?

Diagnosis was pretty trivial. A gallbladder ultrasound showed the stones and a nuclear test confirmed it. The laparoscopic procedure itself was very easy and I was off pain meds the next day. Recovery was easy too.

The trouble with gallstones is that they can escape from the gallbladder, make it down the bile duct, and then sometimes back up in the duct to the pancreas. This can cause pancreatitis which is apparently horrible.

As Harriet the Spry said, avoid fats until you get checked-out. It will make all the difference.

Another gallbladder vet checking in:

Gallstones escaping from the gb and into other places are, as CaveMike noted, bound to cause bigger problems. And you wouldn’t want that gb to burst, either; that would mean the ICU, infection, inflammation, and more misery and expense.

An abdominal ultrasound will reveal the extent of the problem. If the gb must be removed, so be it. Mine was, and many other Dopers did the same. The laparoscopic procedure isn’t so bad as surgeries go; a few days of pain (unpleasant but not unbearable–and nowhere near as bad as the biliary colic that comes from having a crappy gb), and then rapid recovery over the next week.

I had the ol’ gall-bladder removed a couple of months ago. Your initial symptoms certainly mirror the ones I had: shooting pain in the upper right quadrant after eating, and nothing in particular would set it off. I also had nausea and fever. And it would go away by itself.

I had a couple attacks before I went to see the doctor and had the procedure scheduled. That’s when it turned a bit nightmarish for me. I was in for the procedure (laproscopic) at 1:00 in the afternoon and I was discharged at 7:00pm feeling about as off as if I’d had a tooth pulled. In short, I felt great and I was planning on going to work the next day, but my family wouldn’t let me.

Then a few days later I started feeling a little off. No appetite. Queasiness. A little feverish. And then one afternoon the pain started and wouldn’t go away. Cut to the middle of the night when I couldn’t take it anymore and got myself in a taxi to the ER. Apparantly, the little clips the put on your common bile duct after they’ve removed the gall-bladder sometimes don’t take very well. Mine didn’t. I had four days of bile seeping into my abdominal cavity. I ended up back in the hospital for 4 days, puking up anything I could get down, or puking up just bile because that was the only thing in my stomach, on the order of once every two or three hours. It sucked.

In the end they did an ERCP on me (tube down the throat) and got it fixed up and I’ve had no further problems.

Strange about the itching. I’ve got some pretty nasty excema, dry scaley knuckles, essentially. It was worse before the procedure, but I still got it. I didn’t know one had any connection at all to the other.

My gallstone attack, in all it’s gory glory:
21 years ago; watching LA Law (really; that’s how long ago it was!)
All of a sudden, I have this. . .upper abdominal pain, which I start complaining about, loudly. My mother was living with us at the time, and advised me to take some Maalox (“If it’s indigestion, the Maalox will have you feeling better in no time!”)
Maalox didn’t help, pain got worse, like someone driving a knife into my upper-gut/chest area. In fact, having been a long-time veteran of kidney stones, I even consciously thought “this feels like kidney stones, but in the wrong place!”

Fast forward to bathroom, where I am leaning over the toilet, vomiting yellow stuff (bile, though I didn’t know it then). Then I was in my mother’s bedroom (as my bedroom was all the way up a flight of stairs I’m sure I couldn’t have climbed.) My husband is in the room with me, begging me to go to the hospital.

“I can’t go to the hospital!” I whine/scream in my ‘I am the sick person so I know best’ voice.
“Why not?” he asks.
“Because I can’t get dressed!” (at this point, I was just wearing my nightgown and a pair of panties.)

He sat on the bed beside me, to comfort me. He put his hand on my shoulder. I screamed “Don’t touch me! It hurts!”

My mother, from the living room, calls to him “Take her to the hospital!”

Above my protests, he puts me in my old, ratty chenille bathrobe, a pair of his athletic socks, bundles me into my mother’s wheelchair, tells my father to keep an eye on the baby (my 10 month-old-daughter was sound was sound asleep by then). He gets me to the hospital. The first doc who looks at me gives me some morphine (oh, sweet blessed relief!) and offers to send me home with a 'script for more pain meds! The second doc runs the appropriate tests and says “Well, it’s gallstones; we can call the surgery elective and schedule it for next month, or call it emergency and schedule it for Sunday”.

I chose “Sunday”.

Back in those days, they didn’t have the laparascopic abilities they have now. Plus, my gall bladder had swollen so badly, it had partially adhered to my rib cage. Therefore, the surgery required an approx. 9" incision.

It was still worth it, to never have to feel that pain again!

Best of luck, and keep us posted on what happens!

I had pain off and on for years. I finally got the thing out this August. Mine would feel less in the upper right quadrant and more like the absolute worst heartburn ever. I’ve been through 19 hours of labor and two c-sections, and I kept waiting for both to get worse than the gallbladder pain. It didn’t. I’d have 20 c-sections before I ever consented to having that infernal organ inside me ever again.

I would call. Sometimes that pain can radiate so much at the time you are having it that it’s hard to place exactly where it’s originating.

Ouch! Now y’all are SCARING me. Pain worse than childbirth???

I’ve had two kids, with non-functioning epidurals both times, and it’s not worse than either of those.


Hopefully Og doesn’t take that as a challenge :eek:

I did call, and will be hitting the office first thing in the morning for labs. “First thing” because while doc didn’t SAY “fasting”, I looked up the blood test and it is one usually done fasting. If I can’t get any sleep tonight - which seems likely due to the ^*%& ITCHING - I’ll be there BRIGHT and early. Hopefully I can get the ultrasound done this week also. Thought about waiting for that until after 1/1/01 for insurance reasons but unless symptoms are 1000% better tomorrow, that seems like a bad choice.

Oh, and dinner was extremely low-fat but the gut pain is back, dammit. I might as well have had the ice cream after all!!

I’ve no clue what the itching could be about, but have you tried Benadryl (diphenhydramine) to quell it? It might at least help you get some sleep tonight!

On and off abdominal pain for several years. It became more constant last few months. Pain/ache was central, right side at base of ribcage, and creeping around the back on the right. Some foot/leg itch.

Had the lapro late Thursday afternoon. I took a prescription pain pill to help sleep that night. A couple of ibuprophen since. I second the rapid recovery. I wasn’t too swift Friday or Saturday but I did some driving and Xmas shopping Sunday. Today, I could twist and bend well and managed 8 hours of work though I did need a nap when I got home.

Good luck on your diagnosis. The GB stones never go away except to jam some of the other ducts up which is bad.

Had mine out 10 years ago. Went back to work 4 days later.

This summer my dog had gunk/sludge in her gallbladder and they gave her a drug to clean it out and it seemed to work well. Maybe if she had stones rather than sludge they would have taken it out.

I’m on Zyrtec, so benadryl would be overkill (plus it’s one that causes flareups in most Restless Legs sufferers).

Tomorrow, I phone the doc and ask for a stronger sleep aid (the Sonata didn’t touch it) and/or something to help the itch. Possibly a corticosteroid if that’s not contraindicated.

As evidenced by the posting time… I can deal with the pain (tonight’s lasted 6 hours, woohoo and while not “fun”, was something I could live with) but the ITCHING will kill me by keeping me from sleeping.

Here’s hoping the doc can prescribe something to reduce that in the interim. Corticosteroids, or something to put me into a drug induced coma.

Maybe I’ll get lucky and get a cholecystectomy for Christmas, sigh…

I had hopes of getting some sleep earlier in the evening so I took a Sonata. Before I laid down to try to sleep, I posted a message to a restless legs forum asking for info to give a potential surgeon.

I am reminded of why one should not post while under the influence of anything. I’ve never actually hallucinated before, and even though I knew the little polar bears behind the laptop screen were hallucinations, I thought folks on that forum would be amused. The polar bears were cute though. But I reread what I’d posted, after the Sonata wore off, and I am very embarassed!

Mine went kaput when my daughter was 2 months old. Not the worst pain I’d ever felt (labor and pleurisy were worse), but it was probably #3 or #4 on the list.

Had mine yanked several years later (I hadn’t had an attack in ages) – why? Because I could. I had 2 kinds of insurance for a while and I got it taken out at the perfect time and killed my deductible. Plus I figured I may as well in case I ever wanted another baby.

You should get yours yanked if you can. Gallstones can be very dangerous if they end up in a bile duct.