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If I think I might have gallstones, when should I see a doctor?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Often gallstones don't block anything or cause any symptoms; you may not even know they are present. If you suspect that you have gallstones, you probably should notify your doctor. If, however, you have a gallbladder attack, you should see a doctor right away if you have even one of the following symptoms:

  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Jaundice (yellowish skin or whites of the eyes)
  • Fever/chills (even a low-grade fever)
  • Clay-colored stools
  • Pain for more than 5 hours (most stones that dislodge on their own will do so in this time)

These signs can indicate a blockage or infection, and should be checked out as soon as possible. Also if you have repeated or very intense attacks, see your doctor.

If you have gallstones, you should call your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • abdominal pain, especially in your upper right abdomen. The pain may be sharp or more of a cramping sensation.
  • nausea and vomiting (not associated with a stomach virus)
  • fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
  • chills
  • yellowish tint in the skin and/or eyes.
  • gray or light colored stools
  • dark yellow/brown urine

It is especially important to call your doctor at the first sign of these symptoms if you have gallstones and you also have another chronic condition such as diabetes or a compromised immune system. Since gallstone attacks often resolve on their own, your doctor may try "watchful waiting" initially before recommending treatment, but it is very important that your doctor supervise you carefully when you are experiencing these symptoms.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.