Despite its small size, issues may develop in your gallbladder. While gallbladder problems can range in severity, some may cause feelings of bloating.

The gallbladder is a small organ in your digestive system that stores bile. While small at about only 3–4 inches long, it serves an important purpose in helping your body digest fat from foods.

Not all causes of bloating are serious, and few are related to gallbladder issues. Learn more about the gallbladder conditions that cause bloating and other important information about each one.

Inflammation or specific conditions that cause bulges in the gallbladder may cause bloating. Here’s a look at which gallbladder problems may cause bloating, as well as other key symptoms.

Gallstones and gallbladder attacks

Gallstones consist of cholesterol or bilirubin-containing pebbles that form in your gallbladder. These can then harden and get stuck in the bile ducts within your upper-right abdomen.

Gallstones don’t usually cause symptoms until they block the bile ducts. In fact, of the 10–20% of people who have gallstones, it’s thought that only 1–3% show symptoms.

When gallstones block your bile ducts, you may experience symptoms of biliary colic, also known as a gallbladder attack. Severe pain is a common symptom of a gallbladder attack. Bloating (abdominal distension) is less common but possible.

Other possible symptoms of a gallbladder attack include:

  • pain that may radiate toward your back or shoulder
  • abdominal tenderness
  • nausea
  • vomiting

A gallstone might move back into your gallbladder or it might pass through the duct. However, if the gallstone is stuck in the bile ducts and does not pass, possible symptoms include:

  • fever
  • chills
  • light-colored urine and stools
  • yellowing of your skin and eyes (jaundice)


Cholecystitis is inflammation of the gallbladder. The most common cause is when a gallstone blocks a part of the biliary tract called the cystic duct. Like a gallbladder attack, pain is the main symptom. Pain may spread up your body to your right shoulder.

Another symptom of acute cholecystitis is a bulge in your stomach. People have also reported bloating and excess gas as symptoms of chronic cholecystitis.

Other symptoms of this condition include:

  • abdominal tenderness
  • abdominal pain that worsens with deep breathing
  • fever
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • sweating
  • loss of appetite

Biliary dyskinesia

Biliary dyskinesia is a condition that prevents your gallbladder from emptying as it should. This can cause dysmotility, a condition where digestive system muscles stop working properly, which affects your digestive organs. Dysmotility may lead to symptoms like abdominal pain and cramping. Nausea, vomiting, and bloating are other possible symptoms.

Gallbladder cancer

Gallbladder cancer is considered rare, with the majority of cases consisting of adenocarcinomas. Abdominal bloating is one possible symptom of gallbladder cancer, but it’s not as common as others.

The most common symptoms of gallbladder cancer include:

  • lumps on the right side of your abdomen
  • abdominal pain
  • jaundice
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Aside from bloating, other symptoms of gallbladder issues may include:

  • pain
  • fever
  • nausea or vomiting
  • jaundice
  • changes in appetite
  • unintentional weight loss
  • urinary or stool changes

Seek medical help right away if you have severe abdominal pain for more than a few hours or if you’re also experiencing a high fever or jaundice.

Contact a doctor if you have unexplained bloating and abdominal pain or if you’re experiencing any other possible symptoms of gallbladder issues. These might all be signs of a gallbladder problem, but they could also signal another serious condition, such as:

Treatment for gallbladder issues depends on the underlying cause, with gallbladder removal a common consideration.

Gallstone treatment

If gallstones do not cause negative symptoms, treatment may not be necessary.

For gallstones that are stuck in the bile duct, lithotripsy or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) might be performed. The is sometimes paired with antibiotics to treat fever or chills.

Gallstones that cause symptoms may be treated with surgery to remove your gallbladder, such as laparoscopic or open cholecystectomy.

For those unable to undergo a surgical procedure, such as some older people, a doctor may prescribe medications to dissolve gallstones.

Cholecystitis treatment

Acute cholecystitis is usually treated in a hospital, sometimes up to 1 week at a time. During this time, a doctor may give you fluids intravenously, and you will need to fast.

A doctor may prescribe you antibiotics if you have a gallbladder infection. If you have cholecystitis, your doctor may recommend gallbladder removal surgery.

Biliary dyskinesia treatment

Gallbladder removal (cholecystectomy) is the most common treatment doctors recommend for biliary dyskinesia.

Gallbladder cancer treatment

Treatment for gallbladder cancer depends on the type and stage. Options may include one or a combination of:

If you’re concerned about bloating or the possibility of gallbladder issues, you may want to discuss the following frequently asked questions with a doctor.

What does it feel like if your gallbladder is acting up?

Severe pain in your upper-right abdomen that radiates to your back or shoulder is one of the more common symptoms of a gallbladder problem. Depending on the underlying cause, the pain might come and go, or it may last for several hours at a time. Symptoms may be worse at night. You may also feel sick to your stomach and ill in general.

Can you have an inflamed gallbladder without gallstones?

While gallstones may lead to gallbladder inflammation, biliary dyskinesia can also lead to an inflamed gallbladder. Additionally, acalculous cholecystitis (the term for gallbladder inflammation without gallstones) may be caused by infection, reduction in bile secretion, or poor blood flow.

What are the symptoms of a swollen gallbladder?

Symptoms of a swollen gallbladder may include abdominal pain or bloating. Depending on the underlying cause, other symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, chills, and fever.

Can gallstones make you tired and dizzy?

It’s possible for the symptoms of gallstones and other gallbladder issues to cause fatigue. While some people also report dizziness, there’s a lack of clinical research supporting this.

However, dizziness is a possible side effect of certain medications that treat gallstones, such as oral bile agents.

Can gallstones cause weight gain?

Gallstones can vary greatly in size. Some may be as small as a grain of sand, while larger gallstones can get up to the size of a golf ball. While bloating may be possible from gallstones, actual weight gain is less likely. Obesity is also a risk factor for gallstones.

What antibiotics treat a gallbladder infection?

Your doctor may consider several types of antibiotics for gallbladder infection treatment:

Can gallstones cause bloating and gas?

Gallstones can sometimes cause bloating. However, bloating and gas are more often seen in gallbladder diseases, which may be triggered by gallstones.

Bloating is usually caused by gas or overeating but can sometimes be related to underlying medication conditions like gallbladder issues. If you’re experiencing bloating accompanied by severe abdominal pain, fever, and other symptoms, consider seeking medical help.