The pain may:
- Start suddenly in the center of the upper belly (epigastric area) and spread to the right upper back or shoulder blade area. It is usually hard to get comfortable. Moving around does not make the pain go away.
- Prevent you from taking normal or deep breaths.
- Last 15 minutes to 24 hours. Continuous pain for 1 to 5 hours is common.
- Begin at night and be severe enough to wake you.
- Occur after meals.
Gallstone pain can cause vomiting, which may relieve some of the belly (abdominal) pain and pressure. Pain that occurs with a fever, nausea, and vomiting or loss of appetite may be a sign of inflammation or infection of the gallbladder (acute cholecystitis). Symptoms that may mean that a gallstone is blocking the common bile duct include:
- Yellowing of the skin and the white part of the eyes (jaundice).
- Dark urine.
- Light-colored stools.
- A fever and chills.
There are many other conditions that cause similar symptoms, including heartburn, pain caused by a heart attack, and liver problems. Stomach flu (gastroenteritis) and food poisoning also can cause symptoms similar to gallstones. Diarrhea and vomiting occur with the flu and food poisoning, but the pain tends to come and go rather than be constant. Also, pain with these conditions may be felt all over the belly, rather than in one spot.
Belly pain that comes and goes (rather than being constant) and that occurs with nausea and vomiting and possibly a mild fever is more likely to be caused by stomach flu or food poisoning than by gallstones. This is especially true if others around you are sick with similar symptoms.