Gallstones are stone deposits of a mixture of cholesterol (the same fatlike substance that clogs arteries), bilirubin, and protein that are found in the gallbladder or bile ducts. These stones can range in size from less than a pinhead to 3 inches across. Over 16 million Americans (most of them women) have gallstones. Depending on their size and location, gallstones may cause no symptoms or may require medical treatment.

Doctors aren’t sure why gallstones form, but some people are clearly more prone to them than others. Factors that invite gallstones to form include:

  • A family history of gallbladder disease
  • Obesity
  • Middle age
  • Being female
  • Pregnancy
  • Taking estrogen
  • Diabetes
  • Eating a diet high in cholesterol-rich foods
  • Diseases of the small intestine

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of gallstones include:

  • Feeling bloated and gassy, especially after eating fried or fatty foods
  • Steady pain in the upper-right abdomen that lasts from 20 minutes to 5 hours
  • Pain between the shoulder blades or in the right shoulder
  • Indigestion, nausea, vomiting
  • Severe abdominal pain with fever and sometimes yellow skin and/or eyes (jaundice)

Treatment and Care

Treatments for gallstones include:

An unknown error occurred
Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Explore Wellness in 2021