5 signs that you may have gallstones

Gallstones are small stones, usually made of cholesterol, that form in the gallbladder. In most cases they do not cause any symptoms and do not need to be treated.

Many people with gallstones are unaware they have them unless they are detected during tests carried out for another reason. However, symptoms can develop when a gallstone temporarily blocks one of the bile ducts. These are the tube-like structures that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder and then into the digestive system.

In most cases, this causes abdominal pain, although some people also experience other symptoms if the blockage is more severe or a blockage develops in another part of the digestive system.

However, if a gallstone becomes trapped in a duct (opening) inside the gallbladder it can trigger a sudden intense abdominal pain that usually lasts between one and five hours. This type of abdominal pain is known as biliary colic.

The most common symptoms of gallstones are is pain in the stomach area or in the upper right part of the belly, under the ribs, that:

(1) Starts 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.

(2) It prevents you from taking normal or deep breaths.

(3) It lasts 15 minutes to 24 hours. Continuous pain for 1 to 5 hours is common.

(4) Begins at night and be severe enough to wake you.

(5) Occurs 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:

(1) Yellowing of the skin and the white part of the eyes (jaundice)
(2) Dark urine
(3) Light-colored stools
(4) A fever and chills

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....