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Gallstones Symptoms & Risk Factors
Nov 18, 2013


Gallstones are hardened deposits of digestive fluid that can form in your gallbladder.Your gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ on the right side of your abdomen, just beneath your liver. The gallbladder holds a digestive fluid called bile that's released into your small intestine.

Gallstones range in size from as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. Some people develop just one gallstone, while others develop many gallstones at the same time.

Gallstones are common in the United States. People who experience symptoms from their gallstones usually require gallbladder removal surgery. Gallstones that don't cause any signs and symptoms typically don't need treatment.

Gallstones may cause no signs or symptoms. If a gallstone lodges in a duct and causes a blockage, signs and symptoms may result, such as:

  • Sudden and rapidly intensifying pain in the upper right portion of your abdomen
  • Sudden and rapidly intensifying pain in the center of your abdomen, just below your breastbone 
  • Back pain between your shoulder blades 
  • Pain in your right shoulder

Gallstone pain may last several minutes to a few hours.

When to see a doctor Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you.

Seek immediate care if you develop signs and symptoms of a serious gallstone complication, such as:
  • Abdominal pain so intense that you can't sit still or find a comfortable position
  • Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes 
  • High fever with chills 

Factors that may increase your risk of gallstones include:
  • Being female 
  • Being age 60 or older 
  • Being an American Indian 
  • Being a Mexican-American 
  • Being overweight or obese 
  • Being pregnant 
  • Eating a high-fat diet 
  • Eating a high-cholesterol diet 
  • Eating a low-fibre diet 
  • Having a family history of gallstones 
  • Having diabetes Losing weight very quickly 
  • Taking some cholesterol-lowering medications 
  • Taking medications that contain estrogen, such as hormone therapy drugs


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