What Do Gallstones Feel Like?

Gallstones are fairly common, affecting 10%-15% of the U.S. population. Of the nearly 1 million diagnoses each year, one-quarter of them require intervention because of symptoms that range from excessive burping to debilitating pain.

To help you recognize problematic gallstones, the surgical team here at Rockwall Surgical Specialists pulled together the following information on gallstones — how they form, what they feel like, and when you might need treatment.

Gallstones 101

Your gallbladder is one of those small organs you rarely give a second thought to unless there’s a problem. Located underneath your liver, your gallbladder stores bile to help with your digestion. If you accumulate too much cholesterol in your bile, small stones can develop, which is what accounts for 80% of gallstones. The other 20% are made up of calcium salts and bilirubin.

In most cases (80%), the stones pose no problems and simply exist without your notice inside your gallbladder, which is why we refer to them as silent gallstones. If, however, they get lodged in a duct, they can cause some very uncomfortable symptoms that are difficult to ignore.

Common symptoms of problematic gallstones

When a stone gets lodged in a duct, it forms a blockage that creates what we call biliary colic. The primary symptoms of biliary colic include:

These symptoms can come on quite quickly, shortly after a stone is lodged in your duct. The pain can be quite severe and travel from your abdominal region — usually on the upper right side — to your back and right shoulder.

This pain can last for just a few minutes or linger over the course of several hours. If your pain is accompanied by a fever and jaundice, seek medical attention immediately.

Treating gallstones

The most effective treatment for problematic gallstones is gallbladder removal surgery, which is called a cholecystectomy. We understand that surgery may sound daunting, but we perform the procedure using the most minimally invasive techniques available to reduce your risks and recovery time.

The decision as to whether you undergo this surgery depends upon your symptoms, but please note that gallstones don’t go away on their own. If you only experience mild and sporadic symptoms, we may recommend a wait-and-see approach.

If, however, the discomfort is affecting your life, gallbladder surgery can provide you with much-needed relief. Rest assured, your body can still function without your gallbladder, so there are very few long-term implications.

If you have gallstones and you’re considering surgery, contact one of our offices in Rowlett, Rockwall, Greenville, and Forney, Texas. After we evaluate your symptoms and take a look at the problem using advanced imagery, we can determine your next steps.

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