Signs and symptoms of Gall Bladder Disease and stones may not present themselves in typical medical fashion as you may think. While complaints may consist of nausea, vomiting and a generalized upset stomach, typically after eating, not all will experience this. As a registered nurse, (RN), and someone who had severe gall bladder disease and removal, I am here to tell you that it is possible to have some not so common symptoms. As a matter of fact, gall bladder symptoms may mimic signs consistent of a heart attack.
Crushing Chest Pain
My initial symptoms of gall bladder disease began with a trip to the emergency department, (ED), with crushing chest pains. An EKG and blood work revealed that this was not at all cardiac related and I was sent home. Little did I know at the time, this was my first gall bladder attack. Months later I experienced the crushing chest pain again, and the episodes became more frequent. After several trips to the physician, they were puzzled as well. Until, we noticed a pattern in the symptoms. As my gall bladder became increasingly worse, the frequency and intensity of the attacks increased and typically occurred shortly after meals.
Shortness of Breath and Cold Sweats
In addition to crushing chest pain that radiates on one or both sides of the chest, some people, myself included may also experience cold sweats and shortness of breath. This is often related to the pain that is experienced during the attack. These symptoms may come on all at once when the attack begins and become progressively worse or onset may be gradual. While this lasted anywhere from 15-20 minutes for me personally, I have cared for patients in which the cold sweats and shortness of breath continued even after the pain had subsided.
Pain Between the Shoulder Blades
Another symptom of gall bladder disease that is similar to heart attack is pain in the upper back, usually between the shoulder blades. One-sided shoulder pain may also occur. This type of pain can be experienced in the absence of chest pain. It is a rather frightening experience that sends many individuals to the nearest hospital or urgent care clinic. The pain is often described as sharp or shooting. Although I had minimal pain in this area, it would start with intense shooting pain that eventually became a dull ache. I would still be very sore and tense after it was gone.
Even if the individual believes that the signs and symptoms of heart attack experienced is attributed to gall bladder disease, it is still important to seek immediate medical attention. The gall bladder attack may mask itself as something else, but it could actually be a heart attack. Cardiac problems should always be ruled out first. This is only my personal account and what I have seen in the clinical setting of not so typical symptoms and should not be used to replace sound medical advice.