Do I Have Gall Stones? How To Know and Where to Get Treatment?

  • June 12, 2024
  • blog

Gallstones are a common yet often overlooked health issue that can cause significant discomfort and serious complications if not addressed timely. Identifying gall stone symptoms early through diagnosis is crucial, as it can significantly reduce the pain. 

Gallstones are hardened deposits that form in the gallbladder. This is a pear-shaped organ located on the right upper side of the abdomen, just below the liver. While many individuals with gallstones never show any symptoms, others experience pain and other gall stones symptoms. Ranging from pain in the lower chest to nausea and vomiting, these symptoms vary between individuals.

In this guide, we have comprehensively discussed the symptoms of gall stones. Read on to get a detailed overview of this issue, which will enable one to identify the signs early and seek proper medical care.

What Are Gallstones?

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The liver produces a digestive juice called bile, which remains stored in the gallbladder for later use. The bile ducts are responsible for transporting the juice to the small intestine and other organs in the biliary system. The term ‘gall’ means bile, so gall stones are hardened and concentrated pieces of bile stones. Different conditions cause this fluid to harden, which is deposited in the gallbladder to form gallstones. When bile sediments accumulate and form crystals, it leads to bile stones.

These stones vary significantly in size, ranging from the size of a grain of sand to as long as a golf ball. When the bile ducts are blocked by gallstones, bile accumulates in the gallbladder. This results in a gallbladder attack, which is referred to as biliary colic.

The term ‘cholelithiasis’ is sometimes used to describe the condition. While ‘Chole’ refers to bile, ‘lithiasis’ means stone formation.

Individuals may develop just one gallstone or many at a time. Those experiencing gall stone symptoms, including pain, usually undergo a gallbladder removal surgery. However, asymptomatic individuals need not undergo treatment.

Types of Gallstones

The gallbladder may develop two types of gallstones, which are cholesterol gallstones and pigment gallstones.

  • Cholesterol gallstones: This is the most common type of gallstone, yellow in colour. Undissolved cholesterol forms this type of gallstone, along with other components.
  • Pigment gallstones: These gall stones are dark brown in colour and form when the bilirubin content in your bile is excessive. 

Note that gallstones are different from kidney stones. Hence don’t confuse them, identifying the wrong symptoms, causes, and treatment options.

Common Gall Stone Symptoms

Typically, gallstones may show no symptoms at all unless they block a duct. The American College of Gastroenterology states that around 80% of individuals developing gallstones are asymptomatic and have ‘silent gallstones’.

The most common gallbladder stone symptoms include pain in the upper abdomen, nausea, and vomiting. This pain can last for several hours. 

Mostly, pain in the gall bladder occurs after taking heavy meals in the evenings or during the night. However, the pain recedes once the gallstones move or the bile ducts are cleared from the blockage.

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  • Sudden pain in the upper right part of the abdomen with rapid intensification
  • Intense pain under the breastbone, in the centre of the abdomen
  • Pain in the back, between the two shoulder blades
  • Right shoulder pain
  • Vomiting or nausea

Pain due to gallstones can last for several minutes to a few hours. People with gallstones may also experience:

  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Fast heart rate
  • Light-coloured stool
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Yellowness in the eyes and skin
  • Appetite loss
  • Chills
  • Itchy skin
  • Diarrhoea

Sometimes, gallstones form in the pancreatic duct even after gallbladder removal. The stones may also form directly in the bile duct.

What does gallstone pain feel like?

Gallstone pain tends to be severe and often makes patients feel sick to the stomach. Individuals mostly experience gallstone attacks while eating as the gallbladder contracts during this time. This puts the biliary system under more pressure. Intense pain often wakes individuals from sleep.

After building to a peak, gallstone pain gradually fades away. At times, these gallstone bladder symptoms can last for hours. Those experiencing gallstone attacks describe the pain as sharp, intense, stabbing, squeezing, and cramping. It might be so severe that people struggle to sit still.

Where Do People Experience Gallstone Pain?

Mostly, gall stone symptoms like pain show up in the upper right portion of the abdomen. This is where the biliary system is located, under the right rib cage.

However, the pain tends to radiate to other areas like the right arm, shoulder, or back, right between the shoulder blades. Others report gallstone pain in the middle of their chest or abdomen. The gallstone symptoms of women are commonly evident in these places, which are different from where the pain started.

It’s easy to mistake gallstone pain for other ailments like indigestion, heartburn, or heart attack. 

Common Gall Stone Causes Everyone Should Know

Now that you know the common symptoms of gall stone, check out the gall stone causes.

Inside the gallbladder, a chemical imbalance of bile leads to gallstones. Check out the common causes of gallstones in the gallbladder.

Excessive Cholesterol in Bile

Patients having excessive cholesterol in bile often develop yellow cholesterol stones. The liver tends to produce more cholesterol than what the bile can dissolve.

Excessive Bilirubin in Bile

Bilirubin is produced when the red blood cells in the system normally break down. It is excreted out of the body after it passes through the liver. Blood disorders or liver diseases result in the production of more bilirubin in the liver than required. When the gallbladder fails to break down these gall stones, it results in a blockage. 

Gallstone Risk Factors

The risk factors for developing gallstone disease are higher in the following individuals:

    • Women
    • People aged over 40
    • Those with obesity
    • Diabetic patients
    • Those undergoing rapid weight loss
    • Liver disease
    • Leukaemia

Seek Professional Care to Treat Gallstones

Those experiencing gallstone symptoms must seek prompt medical attention, considering the complications and risk of gallstones. Gallstones can be diagnosed through blood tests, CT scans, abdominal ultrasound, MRCP, and HIDA scans. Reputed healthcare centers that treat gallstones use advanced techniques like laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Gall stones can also be treated through shock wave lithotripsy to avoid surgeries and medication.

We diagnose gall stone symptoms and treat patients with our innovative treatment processes and advanced technologies. At Santokh Hospital, our physicians will evaluate your health information before recommending the least disruptive treatment processes. Schedule an appointment with us if you notice any of the gall stone symptoms for early intervention.