©2018 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved. eMedicineHealth does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. See Additional Information.

Symptoms and Signs of Gallstones

Doctor's Notes on Gallstones

Gallstones form when substances in the bile fluid harden and form stones in the gallbladder or bile ducts. Cholesterol stones and pigment stones are the most common types of gallstones. Risk factors for developing gallstones include female gender, obesity, increasing age, rapid weight loss, pregnancy, birth control pill or hormone therapy use, and Crohn’s disease.

Gallstones themselves typically do not cause symptoms or signs. Most people who have gallstones are not aware that they have them. When signs and symptoms of gallstones occur, they almost always occur because the gallstones pass into and block the bile ducts. This leads to a condition known as biliary colic or “gallbladder attack.” Symptoms of biliary colic include a severe, constant pain that may come on suddenly that is located in the middle of the upper abdomen. Nausea can be an associated symptom. The pain of biliary colic lasts until the stone has passed through the bile duct into the small intestine, typically a few hours.

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.