Signs and Symptoms of Gallstones

Gallstones may not always cause symptoms and can be detected incidentally during imaging studies done for other reasons. However, when symptoms do occur, they typically include:

  • Abdominal pain: The most common symptom of gallstones is pain in the upper right or center of the abdomen that may radiate to the back or right shoulder blade. The pain can be severe and last for several hours.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Gallstone pain may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
  • Indigestion: Gallstones can cause indigestion, bloating, and gas.
  • Jaundice: If a gallstone becomes lodged in the bile duct, it can cause yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice).
  • Clay-colored stools: A blocked bile duct can also cause stools to be pale or clay-colored.
  • Fever and chills: If the gallbladder becomes infected, it can cause a fever and chills.

Other symptoms:

If gallstones are left untreated or unidentified, the symptoms may increase to include:

  • a high temperature
  • rapid heartbeat
  • itchy skin
  • diarrhea
  • confusion
  • a loss of appetite

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you. Seek immediate care if you develop signs and symptoms of a serious gallstone complication, such as:

  • Abdominal pain so intense that you can’t sit still or find a comfortable position
  • Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
  • High fever with chills

It is important to seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms, as untreated gallstones can lead to serious complications such as inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis), inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), or infection of the bile ducts (cholangitis).