Gallstones (cholelithiasis) are small, solid masses that develop within the gallbladder, a small organ within the upper right portion of the abdomen. These masses are composed of hardened bile -- a type of digestive fluid that is stored within the gallbladder. Each year, approximately 1 million people in the United States are diagnosed with gallstones, reports UpToDate, a peer-reviewed web resource that provides current clinical and health information. Talk with your doctor if you develop gallstone symptoms to ensure that you receive appropriate treatment.
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Only 10 percent of patients with gallstones experience symptoms, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center website. Of these patients, abdominal pain -- also referred to as biliary pain or colic -- is the most commonly reported symptom. If you have a gallstone, you can develop a constant, gnawing pain within the upper right side of your abdomen. These painful symptoms can radiate from your abdomen into your back or up into your shoulder blades. Abdominal pain due to a gallstone is typically most apparent at night or after a patient consumes a meal that is high in fat, warns the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Painful abdominal symptoms can last anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours and may reoccur several times a week in certain patients. Pain relief methods, such as over-the-counter analgesics, passing gas or altering the position of your body, typically do not improve abdominal pain caused by gallstones.
If you have a gallstone, you can experience stomach upset as a symptom of this condition. You may feel nauseous or can begin vomiting due to inflammation caused by gallstones within the gallbladder. Gas, bloating or abdominal discomfort may also arise due to the gallstones. Certain patients experience chronic bouts of diarrhea, which can result in several bowel movements each day for a minimum of three months, explains the University of Maryland Medical Center website. Stomach upset symptoms are typically more severe after eating a meal and can persist for several months.
Gallstones can block the normal flow of bile out of the gallbladder. If this occurs, bile can build up within the body, causing a medical condition called jaundice. Jaundice results in an abnormal yellowing of the skin and eyes and may occur in conjunction with abdominal pain in patients with gallstones.
Patients with gallstones can develop flu-like symptoms as a result of an infection within the gallbladder. Flu-like symptoms are typically characterized by the presence of fever, chills, muscle aches and excessive fatigue. If you develop flu-like symptoms, talk with your doctor, as these symptoms can be indicative of an alternate medical problem.