What Are the Symptoms of Gallstones?

Gallstones can cause intense and increasing pain in the center or the upper right side of the abdomen, pain between the shoulders or pain in the right shoulder, explains Mayo Clinic. These symptoms occur when a gallstone lodges in a duct.

Gallstones form inside of the gallbladder from hardened digestive fluid called bile, according to Mayo Clinic. Common causes include improper emptying of the gallbladder and too much cholesterol or bilirubin in the bile. Females, American Indians and Mexican Americans are at a higher risk for developing gallstones. Other risk factors include increasing age, being overweight, pregnancy, fatty diet and diabetes. Estrogen medications and certain cholesterol-lowering drugs can also precipitate gallstone formation.

Gallstones can cause inflammation of the gallbladder, blockage of the common bile duct or the pancreatic duct, and gallbladder cancer, explains Mayo Clinic. Gallstones are diagnosed with computerized tomography of the gallbladder, hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid scan, magnetic resonance imaging, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography and blood tests.

Symptomatic gallstones are treated with surgery or medications, according to Mayo Clinic. Cholecystectomy is a surgical procedure during which the gallbladder is removed. The gallbladder is not an essential organ, and after the procedure, bile flows directly from the liver into the small intestine. Medications take a long time to work and are reserved for patients who cannot undergo surgery.