For most of us, the feeling of uneasiness and cramps in the stomach with abdominal pain is something totally relatable. And, in most cases, it is usually some intestinal infection, indigestion, or overindulgence in food and drinks that leads to such abdominal pain. Nonetheless, when this discomfort turns into intense, excruciating pain particularly in the right upper abdomen, middle upper abdomen, and mid-back – within an hour of eating a meal or a snack, then it might be gallstones or gallbladder attack. 

Let’s read in detail about the symptoms of gallstones, their diagnosis, and treatment, along with some dietary modifications that one can do to prevent gallbladder problems. 

Signs and Symptoms of Gallbladder Stone


Some common signs and symptoms of gallbladder stones are as follows: 

  • Pain in the upper middle abdomen.
  • Pain has a radiating nature and might spread to the back or right shoulder.
  • Pain can last for a few minutes to several hours. 
  • Pain recurs, mostly while eating or after meals.
  • Dark-colored urine and light-colored poop.
  • Yellowish discoloration of your skin or white of the eyes.
  • Low-grade fever with chills.
  • Associated digestive symptoms, such as nausea or vomiting.

Who is at Risk of Developing Gallstones?

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Gallstones can happen to anyone. However, there are some common risk factors that double the chances of developing gallbladder stones, such as:

  • Family history of gallstones
  • Gender-wise, females are more prone to stones than men
  • Age-wise, anyone over 40 years old
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Regular consumption of high fat, cholesterol, and low in fiber diet
  • People with diabetes
  • People with blood disorders, such as sickle cell disease

How Do Gallstones are Caused?


Our liver continually makes bile - a liquid that aids in digestion, which gets stored in the gallbladder. It is only when we consume food, the stomach releases a hormone that causes the muscles around the gallbladder to contract and release the bile to help break down the consumed fat to digest.

Bile is made up of several substances, including cholesterol, bile salts, and water and at times some of these substances stick together to form gallstones ranging in size from that of a grain of sand to a golf ball.

When these gallstones get stuck while traveling through the duct (tube) to the stomach, they block the outflow of bile and inflate the gallbladder. When we consume any food, our gallbladder contracts and as a result leads to sudden, sharp, pain, under the rib cage in the upper right side or center of the abdomen.

How to Diagnose Gallbladder Stone?


To detect stones in the gallbladder, doctors with first conduct a physical examination where the s/he will check the area of abdominal pain. Later, s/he may advise a number of tests, including:

  • Blood tests
  • Ultrasound
  • X-ray 
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Cholescintigraphy, an imaging approach that involves injecting small amounts of radioactive material into the blood
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), a type of imaging that helps locate where gallstones are blocking bile ducts
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Treatment for Gallstones


Your doctor will determine if treatment for gallstones is indicated based on your symptoms and the results of diagnostic tests. The majority of people with gallstones may not require any treatment unless they are symptomatic. 

However, your doctor could advise surgery to remove your gallbladder if you're having issues with your gallstones. This is a common operation typically performed laparoscopically.

Dietary Modifications to Prevent Gallbladder Stones

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For anyone who is experiencing inflammation or any other issue associated with the gallbladder, it’s high time to make some dietary modifications to avoid the development of stones. Below are some diet or eating tips that can help prevent gallstones:

Avoid:

  • Food that is high in trans-fat and unhealthy fats
  • Processed foods
  • Simple carbohydrates like white sugar and bread
Eat: 

  • Plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Low-fat dairy and leafy greens
  • Foods rich in antioxidants and Vitamin C
  • Plant-based protein like tofu, beans, and lentils
  • Healthy fats from nuts and fish
  • Black, unsweetened coffee

Gallstones symptoms, if ignored, can get worse with time and cause complications to your overall health. So, make sure to consult a Gastroenterologist no sooner you notice the slightest signs of gallbladder stones. 

If you have any questions about digestive health including gallbladder stones, you can Ask a Specialist online at Ask a doctor, 24x7.

Recently Answered Questions Related To Gallbladder Stones and Associated Problems


About the Author

Dr. Shweta Khanna

Shweta Khanna is a dental surgeon who has experience in dentistry for more than 13 years. She has been writing innovative medical and healthcare content for the past eight years. She has authored various medical blogs/articles related to dentistry, orthopedics, dermatology, women's health, consumer health articles, and research articles (basic and clinical).


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