The major symptom of a gallbladder attack is pain in the upper abdomen, according to The Merck Manual Home Edition. This pain lasts over six hours, peaking after an hour and remaining steady. Gallstones cause 95 percent of gallbladder attacks.
Gallstones do not always cause symptoms, according to WebMD. Smaller stones pass through the bile duct into the colon without causing pain. Occasionally, larger stones block the duct and prevent bile from flowing into the intestine. The blockage causes the gallbladder to swell bringing on the attack.
Genetics, obesity and ethnicity are common risk factors for gallstones, reports WebMD. Women suffer more attacks than men. As people age, they are more likely to experience gallstones. Certain cholesterol-lowering drugs and rapid weight loss also increase the risk for developing gallstones.
The most common treatment for gallbladder attacks is surgery to remove the gallbladder. Laparoscopic surgeries are more common as of 2015 than open surgeries. The laparoscopic surgeries reduce the chances of complications, according to WebMD, but are not appropriate in all cases.
There are medication options available if a doctor does not believe a patient is a good candidate for surgery, but the medications sometimes take years to dissolve the gallstone. When the patient stops taking the medication, WebMD indicates the stones often form again, bringing back the gallbladder attacks.