How Do I Recognize the Symptoms of Gallstones?

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  • Written By: Cindy Quarters
  • Edited By: S. Pike
  • Last Modified Date: 22 July 2019
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Gallstones are hardened deposits of cholesterol or bile that appear in the gallbladder and can cause a great deal of pain. The exact causes of gallstones are uncertain, but they may be formed when there is excessive cholesterol in the body or when the gallbladder doesn’t empty properly during the digestive process. The main symptom of gallstones is the rapid onset of pain in the abdominal area, typically on the right side, that lasts for hours. This pain is usually triggered by a meal and occurs a short time after eating.

Gallstones are quite common, but not all of them cause any kind of symptoms. If stones are present but not making themselves noticed by causing pain or other difficulties, they don’t require any treatment. If, however, the gallstones are causing severe pain or other symptoms, they should be evaluated by a doctor to see if they are blocking a bile duct, something that could lead to serious problems if not dealt with.

Besides abdominal pain, there are some other symptoms of gallstones that can help you to recognize if the problem is being caused by gallstones or by something else. It is not unusual for gallstone pain to be felt not only the upper abdomen, but also in the back, between the shoulder blades or under the shoulder blade on the right side. Back pains such as these, when combined with abdominal pain, are almost certain to be symptoms of gallstones.


Other symptoms of gallstones can include nausea and vomiting, but these will generally be combined with abdominal or upper back pain. If the stones are blocking a bile duct, you may experience signs of jaundice, such as yellowish skin or eyes, dark urine or oddly colored bowel movements. These symptoms require medical intervention and you should see a doctor right away.

The people most likely to develop gallstones are those who are overweight or who use drastic diets to drop a lot of weight in a short period of time. If you fall into one of these categories and you experience symptoms of gallstones, especially if the symptoms develop suddenly, it is important to be checked as soon as possible. Since the symptoms of other conditions can mimic some of the symptoms of gallstones, it is best to seek medical assistance for any sudden pain of uncertain origin. If the problem is gallstones, the doctor will most likely remove the gallbladder to prevent further problems.



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