What are the symptoms of gallstones?

A Answers (8)

  • You may not have symptoms with gallstones. About 80 percent of gallstones cause no symptoms and require no medical help. However, if a gallstone should end up blocking a bile duct in your gallbladder, you may experience sudden and severe pain in the upper right area of your abdomen. This is frequently referred to as a "gallbladder attack," and often occurs after eating fatty foods and at night. You might also feel pain between your shoulder blades and in your right shoulder. Pain can last for minutes or several hours. Other symptoms, any of which indicate a need for medical help right away, include fever or chills, clay-colored stools, jaundice, and nausea or vomiting.

  • ARupa Seetharamaiah, MD, Surgery, answered on behalf of Baptist Health South Florida
    Symptoms of gallstones may include intermittent or constant pain in the upper abdominal area, nausea, vomiting, fever and bloating. If a gallstone becomes impacted in a duct, you may experience these symptoms as well as chills, and tenderness along the right ribcage.
    However, only about 20% of people who have gallstones have symptoms. About 80% of people with gallstones do not even realize they have them because they have no symptoms. 
  • AMehmet Oz, MD, Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease), answered
    Gallstones, caused by the crystallization of excess cholesterol in the bile, cause sharp, shooting pain in the upper right of the abdomen. This pain can last from a few minutes to hours. Often times, this pain can occur after a high-fat meal.
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  • ADonna Hill Howes, RN, Family Medicine, answered
    As gallstones move into the bile ducts and create a blockage, pressure increases in the gallbladder and one or more symptoms may occur. Symptoms of blocked bile ducts are often called a gallbladder "attack" because they occur suddenly. Gallbladder attacks often follow fatty meals, and may occur during the night. A typical attack can cause the following:
    • Steady pain in the right 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
    Notify your doctor if you think you have experienced a gallbladder attack. Although these attacks often pass as gallstones move, your gallbladder can become infected and rupture if a blockage remains.

    People with any of the following symptoms should see a doctor immediately:
    • Prolonged pain-more than five hours
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Fever-even low-grade-or chills
    • Yellowish color of the skin or whites of the eyes
    • Clay-colored stools
    Many people with gallstones have no symptoms; these gallstones are called "silent stones." They do not interfere with gallbladder, liver, or pancreas function and do not need treatment.

    This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
  • AUCLA Health answered

    Symptoms of gallstones include recurrent pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen, which can radiate to the back or shoulder, occasional pain in the middle of the abdomen and nausea that lasts for several hours, UCLA internist Peter Lefevre, M.D., explains. These symptoms are sometimes mistaken for reflux, indigestion, gas pain or food poisoning.

  • AMarc Sonenshine, MD, Gastroenterology, answered on behalf of Atlanta Gastroenterology Associates

    Approximately 12% of all American adults have gallstones; however, only about 25% of them develop symptoms. The classic symptoms caused by gallstones are attacks of pain or discomfort in the right upper abdomen that moves to the shoulder or around the back. These symptoms can come from eating fatty or greasy meals. The pain may be associated with nausea and typically relents a few hours later. The best test for diagnosis of gallstones is an ultrasound of your gallbladder.

  • AMichael T. Murray, ND, Naturopathic Medicine, answered
    Gallstones may be without symptoms or may be associated with periods of intense pain in the abdomen that radiates to the upper back. Symptoms begin only when a gallstone gets stuck in the duct leading from the gallbladder to the intestine. An ultrasound exam provides definitive diagnosis of gallstones. 

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  • AHealthwise answered

    The most common symptom of gallstones is pain in the stomach area or in the upper right part of the belly, under the ribs.

    The pain may:

    • Start 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.
    • Prevent you from taking normal or deep breaths.
    • Last 15 minutes to 24 hours. Continuous pain for 1 to 5 hours is common.
    • Begin at night and be severe enough to wake you.
    • Occur 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:

    • Yellowing of the skin and the white part of the eyes (jaundice).
    • Dark urine.
    • Light-colored stools.
    • A fever and chills.

    There are many other conditions that cause similar symptoms, including heartburn, pain caused by a heart attack and liver problems. Stomach flu (gastroenteritis) and food poisoning also can cause symptoms similar to gallstones. Diarrhea and vomiting occur with the flu and food poisoning, but the pain tends to come and go rather than be constant. Also, pain with these conditions may be felt all over the belly, rather than in one spot.

    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.

    This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. To learn more visit

    © Healthwise, Incorporated.

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