Symptoms of gallstones

Most cases of gallstones don't cause any symptoms. But ifa gallstoneblocks one of the bile ducts, it can cause sudden, severe abdominal pain, known as biliary colic.

Other symptoms may developif the blockage is more severe ordevelops in another part of the digestive system.

Abdominal pain (biliary colic)

Gallstonescan causesudden, severe abdominal pain that usually lasts one to five hours(although it can sometimes last just a few minutes).

The pain can be felt:

  • in the centre of your abdomen (tummy)
  • just under the ribs on your right-hand side it may spread from hereto your side or shoulder blade

The pain is constant and isn't relieved when you go to the toilet, pass wind or are sick.It's sometimes triggered by eating fatty foods, butmay occur at any time of dayand it may wake you up during the night.

Biliary colic doesn't happen often. After an episode of pain, it may be several weeks or months before you experience another episode.

Some people also have periods where they sweat excessively and feel sick or vomit.

Whengallstones cause episodes of biliary colic, it is known as 'uncomplicated gallstone disease'.

Other symptoms

In a small number of people, gallstones can cause more serious problems if they obstruct the flow of bile for longer periods or move into other organs (such as the pancreas or small bowel).

If this happens,youmay develop:

  • a high temperature of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • more persistent pain
  • a rapid heartbeat
  • yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes ( Jaundice )
  • itchy skin
  • diarrhoea
  • chills or shivering attacks
  • confusion
  • a loss of appetite

Doctors refer to this more severe condition as 'complicated gallstone disease'.

Jaundice is a condition that causes yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. It isbrought on by liver problems.
Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 28 Nov 2016