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Symptoms of Gallstones

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About 80% of people who have gallstones have no symptoms. These cases are called silent gallstones, which cause no problems and usually do not require treatment.

For those people who do have symptoms, gallstones often cause pain in the upper abdomen. The attack begins suddenly, often after a fatty meal and often during the night.

The Gallbladder
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Typical Symptoms of an Attack

  • Steady and sharp pain in the upper abdomen that increases rapidly and lasts from 30 minutes to several hours
  • Pain in the back between the shoulder blades
  • Pain under the right shoulder
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Other Symptoms

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Inability to tolerate fatty foods
  • Colic
  • Belching
  • Gas
  • Indigestion
  • Worsening of heartburn

Contact your doctor right away if you have the above symptoms and any of the following:

  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Low-grade fever
  • Yellowish color of the skin or whites of the eyes
  • Clay-colored stools
  • Dark urine

Revision Information

  • Adler DG, Baron TH, et al. ASGE guideline: the role of ERCP in diseases of the biliary tract and the pancreas. Gastrointest Endosc. 2005;62:1-8.

  • Ahmed A, Cheung RC, et al. Management of gallstones and their complications. Am Fam Physician. 2000;61:1673-1678.

  • Gallstones. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 23, 2013. Accessed December 5, 2013.

  • Portincasa P, Moschetta A, et al. Cholesterol gallstone disease. Lancet. 2006;368:230-239.

  • Portincasa P, Moschetta A, et al. Gallstone disease: Symptoms and diagnosis of gallbladder stones. Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2006;20:1017-1029.