gallbladder is a small sac found just under the liver.
bile made by the liver. Bile helps you digest fats.
Bile moves from the gallbladder to the
small intestine through tubes called the cystic duct
and common bile duct.
The most common symptom of gallstones is pain in the stomach area or in the
upper right part of the belly, under the ribs. The pain may:
Develop suddenly in the center of the upper belly 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; 1 to 5 hours of continuous pain is
Begin at night and be severe enough to wake you.
Occur after meals
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 are made from
cholesterol and other things found in the bile. They
can be smaller than a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball.
Most gallstones do not cause problems. But if they block a duct, they
usually need treatment.
What causes gallstones?
Gallstones form when
cholesterol and other things found in bile make stones. They can also form if
the gallbladder does not empty as it should. People who are overweight or who
are trying to lose weight quickly are more likely to get gallstones.
What are the symptoms?
Most people who have
gallstones do not have symptoms.
If you have symptoms, you most
likely will have mild pain in the pit of your stomach or in the upper right
part of your belly. Pain may spread to your right upper back or shoulder blade
area. Sometimes the pain is more severe. It may be steady, or it may come and
go. Or it may get worse when you eat.
See a picture of where pain
may occur in the
When gallstones keep blocking a
bile duct, you may have pain with fever and chills. Or your skin or the
whites of your eyes may turn yellow. Call your doctor right away. Having stones
in your bile duct increases your chance of having a swollen
These symptoms may also be a sign of an infected gallbladder.
Call your doctor right away if you have sudden or bad pain in your belly or
chest and you are not sure what is causing it. Symptoms of gallstones may feel
like chest pain caused by a heart attack and other serious problems.
How are gallstones diagnosed?
You may decide to go to the
doctor because of pain in your belly. In this case, your doctor will ask you
questions about when the pain started, where it is, and if it comes and goes or
is always there. Your doctor may order
imaging tests. These take pictures of the inside of
your body. An
ultrasound of the belly is the best test to find
gallstones. This test does not hurt.
Your ultrasound may not show
gallstones. But if your doctor still thinks you have a problem with your
gallbladder, he or she may order a gallbladder scan. In this test, a doctor
injects dye into a vein in your arm. Then a machine takes
X-rays as the dye moves through your liver, bile duct,
gallbladder, and intestine.