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Gallbladder Attacks in Teenagers

by Kathy Gleason

While gallbladder attacks are far more common in older adults than teens, it is possible for teens to have this type of episode. According to KidsHealth, when gallbladder attacks do occur in teens, they often stem from factors such as having an underlying illness like sickle cell anemia or from taking certain long-term medications.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a gallbladder attack often come on suddenly. Your teen might complain of a severe pain in the upper right quarter of her stomach, and have nausea or vomiting. This is most likely to occur after a heavy or fatty meal. You might also notice that your teen looks pale or that her coloring is off.

Causes

According to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, teenagers on birth control pills or any set of long-term hormonal therapy are more likely to have a gallbladder attack. Being overweight is also a risk factor for gallbladder attacks. Even people who are a bit overweight are at higher risk, not necessarily just those who are obese. In some teens, a gallbladder attack can also be a sign of a food allergy, so ensure that you ask your teen whether he ate anything unusual before starting to feel ill. Common foods that can trigger a gallbladder attack in sensitive individuals include pork, eggs and onions.

Prevention

If your teen has already had a gallbladder attack, teach her how to reduce the odds of having such attacks in the future. Regular exercise can help prevent gallbladder attacks, as well as eating bran and other whole grains. Discuss whether reducing or eliminating meat in her diet is an option, and either way, ensure that her diet is rich in fruits and vegetables. Teens who have high cholesterol should also work with their doctor to reduce it because that can be a contributing factor to gallbladder attacks.

Diagnosis

Call your teen's doctor or go to the nearest hospital if you suspect a gallbladder attack. To diagnose, the doctor might perform an abdominal ultrasound, order blood work, or ask for a stomach X-ray.

Treatment

The treatment for a gallbladder attack will depend on the cause, severity and whether there are multiple attacks. Hartford Hospital explains that the treatment can be medications to help the pain and break up any gallstones, or surgery might be necessary, either to remove the stones or to take out the gallbladder itself.

About the Author

Kathy Gleason is a freelance writer living in rural northern New Jersey who has been writing professionally since 2010. She is a graduate of The Institute for Therapeutic Massage in Pompton Lakes, N.J. Before leaving her massage therapy career to start a family, Gleason specialized in Swedish style, pregnancy and sports massage.

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