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Gallstones (cont.)

Gallstones Symptoms

Most people with gallstones (60% to 80%) have no symptoms. In fact, they are usually unaware that they have gallstones unless symptoms occur. These "silent gallstones" usually require no treatment.

Symptoms usually occur as complications develop. The most common symptom is pain in the right upper part of the abdomen. Because the pain comes in episodes, it is often referred to as an "attack."

  • Attacks may occur every few days, weeks, or months; they may even be separated by years.
  • The pain usually starts within 30 minutes after a fatty or greasy meal.
  • The pain is usually severe, dull, and constant, and can last from one to five hours.
  • It may radiate to the right shoulder or back.
  • It occurs frequently at night and may awaken the person from sleep.
  • The pain may make the person want to move around to seek relief, but many patients prefer to lay still and wait for the attack to subside.

Other common symptoms of gallstones include the following:

  • nausea and vomiting,
  • fever,
  • indigestion, belching, bloating,
  • intolerance for fatty or greasy foods, and
  • jaundice (yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes).

Warning signs of a serious problem are fever, jaundice, and persistent pain.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/6/2014

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