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Gallstones Symptoms & Diagnosis

Symptoms

Many people have gallstones without symptoms, called "silent gallstones." In some cases, these are treated.

Gallstones may cause pain in the upper abdomen. This is sometimes called an attack because it begins suddenly, often after a fatty meal. The pain is severe and may last for 30 minutes or several hours.

Other symptoms include:

  • Intermittent pain on the right, below the ribcage
  • Bloating, nausea, and vomiting
  • Belching, gas, and indigestion

If you have the following symptoms, see your doctor right away:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Low-grade fever
  • Jaundice (yellowish color of the skin or whites of the eyes)
  • Clay-colored stools

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam.

Tests may include:

  • Abdominal x-ray —a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body, about 15% of gallstones can be seen on plain x-rays.
  • Ultrasound —a test that uses sound waves to find gallstones
  • Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP)—an accurate and non-invasive means of evaluating the pancreas and gallbladder
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) —a test that uses a combination of endoscopy (the use of a flexible fiberoptic camera to look into your digestive system) and x-rays
  • Cholecystogram or cholescintigraphy—x-rays that show movement of the gallbladder and any blockage of the cystic duct that carries bile to the bile duct
  • Blood tests—may be used to find an infection, jaundice, pancreatitis , or an obstruction

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2019 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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