Medical Specialty >> Gastroenterology

Doctors Lounge - Gastroenterology Answers

Back to Gastroenterology Answers List

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. Doctors Lounge (www.doctorslounge.com) does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the Site.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on www.doctorslounge.com is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her physician. Please read our 'Terms and Conditions of Use' carefully before using this site.

Date of last update: 10/15/2017.

Forum Name: Gastroenterology Topics

Question: GERD vs. Gallbladder


 KimberlyAna - Wed Nov 09, 2005 9:26 pm

I have had very occasional but rather severe heartburn
"attacks" since the age of about 25. In between these severe episodes, I seem to have almost no heartburn or indigestion ever, even when I eat a lot or very spicy foods. I am 39 now, female, and I am weighing 169 lbs. now at 5'5", down from 196 lb. a year ago. (I know the saying about "female, fat, and forty" for gallbladder trouble!) Despite being vegetarian for 17 years now, I have not had the greatest of eating habits until very recently, although I have managed to eat extremely healthily for good stretches at a time. My cholesterol has ranged between 151 and 185 during the last several years, so I think on average I've done fairly well.

Now, after about a month of eating extremely well, I went out to eat at restaurants 2 nights last week, a few days apart, and ate way too much and lots of things I don't normally eat. Anyway, I got another "attack" of severe burning pain directly under my breastbone around 3 am the second night of eating badly. I drank a good amount of Maalox and took a Pepcid complete and was able to make the pain, which seemed to subside a bit and then grow suddenly worse, die down enough to go back to sleep. However, I continued having burning pain without complete relief for the next 12 hours, until I took some Alka Seltzer, which finally relieved it. I then began self-medicating with OTC Prilosec once a day and am on the 5th day. I am finding that the heartburn is subsiding pretty well, but for the first couple of days, I was very concerned by its constancy. I've only felt the need for Alka Seltzer one more time, and the stronger heartburn that I started getting last night while I lay on the sofa was amazingly relieved by chamomile tea.

About 4 years ago, I had a similar type of attack after eating a very hot chili pepper on an empty stomach with only beer and a little Mexican food to chase it, and after several days of burning, I had it checked out. With simple lab tests and a GI cocktail, the ED doc ruled out a gallbladder problem and decided that it was gastritis and/or GERD. I was given prescription-strength Prilosec for 30 days (of which I ended up taking only about 15 days worth of) and told to follow-up with a GI doc, who turned out not to be taking any new patients. Since I felt complete relief fairly quickly and subsequently have had only about 3 severe "attacks" which quickly subsided with antacids, I have never followed up.

My main concern is whether this could actually be a gallbladder problem after all. If it is GERD, how could I be so seemingly syptom-free for a year at a time? I probably will go and be checked out, but I am trying to figure out just what is really going on. Also, I really do NOT want to have my gallbladder removed (ever) if that is at all possible, so you can imagine that I am not keen on seeing a doctor unless I feel I am in a really acute situation. I am feeling less acute by the day, and I think my pain should be completely gone soon, but I do think I should investigate further with a doctor who doesn't just want another surgery under his belt.

Final comments on this long post: I have been on medium-dose birth control pills most of my reproductive life and have never been pregnant. I do not seem to have "Murphy's sign": no discernable pain (maybe just slight discomfort) when I press around in the right upper quadrant under and behind the rib cage.

I would greatly appreciate any insight you can give me.
 Theresa Jones, RN - Thu Nov 10, 2005 7:25 am

User avatar Hi KimberlyAna,
Gallbladder "attacks" usually present with right upper quadrant pain which may radiate to the upper back or shoulder. The attacks may last from a few minutes to several hours. Nausea or vomiting may also occur. These symptoms often occur after ingesting a meal high in fat content. Gerd symptoms may present with a burning sensation just under the breast bone, worsens at night when lying flat, especially following a heavy meal. Nausea, belching, and food regurgitation may also be present. Diagnostic studies to identify gallbladder dysfunction are, for example, an ultrasound, HIDA scan, etc. I would suggest that you follow up with your physician to identify the cause of your symptoms.
Sincerely,
Theresa Jones, RN
 KimberlyAna - Thu Nov 10, 2005 6:37 pm

Thank you for your reply. I will be talking to a doctor or PA about this very soon.

| Check a doctor's response to similar questions

Are you a Doctor, Pharmacist, PA or a Nurse?

Join the Doctors Lounge online medical community

  • Editorial activities: Publish, peer review, edit online articles.

  • Ask a Doctor Teams: Respond to patient questions and discuss challenging presentations with other members.

Doctors Lounge Membership Application

Tools & Services: Follow DoctorsLounge on Twitter Follow us on Twitter | RSS News | Newsletter | Contact us