Unless you've had gallstones, you may never have had to think about gallbladders at all. Those who have experienced gallstones will likely say, "Lucky you!" For the tiny, pear-shaped organ that it is, the gallbladder can cause the human body a lot of grief.


Gallstones form from hardened deposits of digestive fluid (bile) that's kept in the gallbladder. They have a tendency to get stuck in the common bile duct, making the digesting of food into the small intestine virtually impossible. Symptoms will only occur when the gallstones become stuck in the bile duct. These symptoms of gallstones can vary from extreme pain to a dull ache to none at all.

A Dull Ache in the Abdomen That Radiates

Some patients report feeling a dull ache deep inside their abdomen that has been known to radiate into the right shoulder blade. This feeling can be mistaken for heartburn or indigestion and is relatively ongoing and consistent. This ache has been described as an annoying and gnawing pain and is sometimes reactive to fatty and oily food.


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An Acute Pain Thatis Sharp and Burns

This pain is felt in the same places as the dull ache: the abdomen, the right-hand side, under the ribcage, and occasionally behind the right shoulder blade. Unlike the dull ache, these sharp, burning pains are acute and debilitating and have been known to last between 1-5 hours at a time.


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Nausea and Vomiting That Doesn't Relieve Symptoms

The presence of gallstones in the bile duct can sometimes cause nausea and vomiting. This is Biliary colic. Unlike other stomach issues, when gallstones are present, vomiting may not relieve the symptoms. Any problem that the gallbladder has will result in sickness such as nausea and vomiting with no feeling of relief afterward.

This nausea and vomiting may not happen every time you have a gallbladder attack, and it could be weeks between that attack and the next.


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Sudden Yellowing of the Skin and Eyes

Jaundice is a term that's thrown around as much as, "I don't have the gall." In reality, the yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes is a symptom of a greater cause affecting the upper digestive system including the liver, gallbladder, and the pancreas.

Jaundice is a condition that's the result of a build-up of bile being sent back to the liver, which then causes an infection that can seep into the bloodstream causing sepsis.


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Rampant Chills and a High Fever

Infections of any kind can bring about a fever, and the presence of gallstones doesn't make the patient immune.

Many instances of gallbladder attacks have been reported to occur alongside a fever, sometimes of more than 100.4 degrees, and the fever has been known to be the first signal that the pain is about to begin. Fevers that accompany gallbladder attacks can bring about severe, shaking chills that add to the discomfort.


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A Change in Bowel Movements

A superb and timeless way of diagnosis is to monitor your bowel movements.

If you're experiencing frequent diarrhea or sudden constipation, this could be a sign that there's a problem with your gallbladder, but it's in the way that the fecal matter looks that will give you more answers. If your stools are hard to pass and appear to look chalky, grey, or like clay, this may signify that there's a blockage in the bile ducts or a problem with the pancreas.


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A Change in Urine Color

Checking the color of your urine can also help determine whether or not you have gallstones. The presence of too much bile in the body can make the urine darker and more orange in color. If you're not dehydrated but your urine still appears to be dark, it could be a sign that you have excess - or a build-up of - bile.


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Stomach Pain Immediately After Eating Fatty Food

After eating a big meal that's high in fat, you might find that your unexplained stomach pains are debilitating to the point where you find yourself perpetually hunched over the toilet bowl.

Plenty of patients who have had the displeasure of experiencing gallbladder attacks have reported being in pain within minutes of eating. A low-fat diet is always recommended for those experiencing gallbladder-related problems, and eliminating fats can sometimes help to dissolve the pain.


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Inflammation of the Pancreas

Gallstones are a common proponent of a condition called Pancreatitis.

As with any condition that ends with "itis," pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas.

When gallstones get wedged inside of the common bile duct, they can create an obstruction that makes it impossible for pancreatic enzymes and other biliaric substances to travel to the small intestine. Instead, these enzymes are sent to the pancreas, causing it to become inflamed.

Pancreatitis is a painful condition that, because of the location of the pancreas, isn't easily detectable. Once your doctor does diagnose it, you'll be admitted to hospital for a combination of liquid and antibiotic IVs.


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Other Less Common Gallstone Symptoms

Because every single human body is unique, several gallstone symptoms affect only a small number of patients.

Some of the less common gallstone symptoms are:

  • Pain in the left-hand side: because of its location in the upper right quadrant, pain from gallstones is commonly felt on the right-hand side of the abdomen, ribs, or shoulder blade. Pain in the left-hand side can be a sign of Pancreatitis as a result of gallstones but is otherwise extremely rare.
  • Mental confusion and memory loss: sometimes, particularly in elderly patients, mental confusion can occur as a result of the pain.
  • Itchy skin: Itching can be a side-effect of bile backing up or being released into the bloodstream, similar to jaundice.

It's good to remember, however, that less common gallstone symptoms shouldn't be a cause of worry to you.


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