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Gall Stones

In medicine, gallstones are crystalline bodies formed within the body by accretion or concretion of normal or abnormal bile components.

Cholesterol stones are usually white or yellow in color and account for about 80 percent of gallstones. They are made primarily of cholesterol.

Pigment stones are small, dark stones made of bilirubin and calcium salts that are found in bile. They account for the other 20 percent of gallstones. Risk factors for pigment stones include cirrhosis, biliary tract infections, and hereditary blood cell disorders, such as sickle cell anemia. Stones of mixed origin also occur.

symptoms of gall bladder stones

Gallstones can occur anywhere within the biliary tree, including the gallbladder and the common bile duct. Obstruction of the common bile duct is choledocholithiasis; obstruction of the biliary tree can cause jaundice; obstruction of the outlet of the pancreatic exocrine system can cause pancreatitis. Cholelithiasis is the presence of stones in the gallbladder - chole- means "gall bladder", lithia meaning "stone", and -sis means "process".

gallstone symptoms may include:

  • gall stones may produce No Symptoms... Many people don't know they have gallstones. These "silent stones" are often found by accident from x-rays for other medical reasons. These stones may or may not require treatment.
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Indigestion
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Fatty food intolerance
  • Biliary Colic
  • Belching
  • Gas
  • Indigestion

Gallstones vary in size and may be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. The gallbladder may develop a single, often large, stone or many smaller ones, even several thousand.

causes of gall stones

Progress has been made in understanding the process of gallstone formation. Researchers believe that gallstones may be caused by a combination of factors, including inherited body chemistry, body weight, gallbladder motility (movement), and perhaps diet.

Cholesterol gallstones develop when bile contains too much cholesterol and not enough bile salts. Besides a high concentration of cholesterol, two other factors seem to be important in causing gallstones. The first is how often and how well the gallbladder contracts; incomplete and infrequent emptying of the gallbladder may cause the bile to become overconcentrated and contribute to gallstone formation. The second factor is the presence of proteins in the liver and bile that either promote or inhibit cholesterol crystallization into gallstones.

Other factors also seem to play a role in causing gallstones but how is not clear. Obesity has been shown to be a major risk factor for gallstones. A large clinical study showed that being even moderately overweight increases one's risk for developing gallstones. This is probably true because obesity tends to cause excess cholesterol in bile, low bile salts, and decreased gallbladder emptying. Very low calorie, rapid weight-loss diets, and prolonged fasting, seem to also cause gallstone formation.

In addition, increased levels of the hormone estrogen as a result of pregnancy, hormone therapy, or the use of birth control pills, may increase cholesterol levels in bile and also decrease gallbladder movement, resulting in gallstone formation.

No clear relationship has been proven between diet and gallstone formation. However, low-fiber, high-cholesterol diets, and diets high in starchy foods have been suggested as contributing to gallstone formation.

Posted by Staff at May 21, 2005 1:13 AM

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Comments Archive

Some time ago i thought about this.

Posted by: Lithia real estate at August 28, 2005 4:18 PM

I have this pain about 2inchs from my bellybutton, and the pain runs from the front
of my belly to the back. I have taken Tums,Rolaids,even Exlax, that is not even helping
the paingo away,or evenletting up.

Posted by: Edawrd McCoy at April 10, 2006 2:38 AM

Man, that is a bummer.

Posted by: Anon at June 6, 2006 3:30 AM

I am having gallbladder attacks, for the past two months. I just realized they were gallbladder attacks. I thought it was muscles in my back leading to the pain the front. But it's the other way around. It gets so bad that I can't stand up straight, I get woken up in the middle of the night. I don't know if these are symptoms of gallstones but I feel extremely tired lately, weak, light headed. All the other symptoms I have though, and it's not a pretty feeling. Everyone at work can tell there is something wrong with me by looking at me. I went to the ER for it, they gave me some pill killers and told me to get into my doctors office. I just went there and I'm scheduled to have an ultrasound next week. And more than likely, the doctor said, I am going to have to have it removed. I've never had a stitch or a broken bone or anything wrong in my life! I'm scared! I worry myself like crazy too. I think I worry to the point I am having panic attacks, overstress (I can feel it in my jaws). I just hope this all goes well! Good luck to nyone else on this site with this problem!!

Posted by: Stephanie at July 12, 2006 3:08 PM

I've been having pain two in. below my rib cage. It radiates from my front to my back. It gets even worse when I eat at this point any kind of food. It hurts for me to stand up, lay down flat, and I also am awakened in the middle of the nite with extreme pain. I use to control the pain with Prilosec OTC and it stopped working. I went to my doctor and he's been running a battery of tests to determine whats going on. This coming Monday I have an appointment to have a sonogram done. I to the best of my knowledge know I have gallstones. My younger sibling had the exact same symptoms as me and ended up having to have her gallbladder removed. I'm at the point where I have to sleep sitting straight up. The pain subsides in the morning and by my lunch time the pain starts. By bedtime I'm in so much pain I literally cry myself to sleep. I just hope that anyone else with this kind of pain gets help right away. Good luck to all who read this!

Posted by: Linda at July 30, 2006 12:52 AM

I have been having pain around my belly button area and the pain moves the back side of my back, the right side. Sometimes the pain is unbearable, it feels like I pulled a muscle. I also feel like I could get sick to my stomach but I don't. I went to the emergency room for this and they told me to go to my doctor for a gall bladder ultra sound. I have not gone yet. I would be grateful if anyone could respond to this and let me know if they think it is symptoms of gall stones. If it is the er doctor said they would have to take out my gall bladder. Thanks

Posted by: Sherry at August 16, 2006 3:51 AM

I started getting the pain also. At first I thought maybe it's the appendics. A trip to the doctor ruled that out. Blood tests, urine tests, stool test..that was a first! Then the ultra sound confirmed that I had gall stones. Referral to a specialist, some more poking and prodding and now I am waiting for a date for surgery. They asked if I wanted it out. Seems some people who have little pain decide against having the operation. When I read about the pain some people are experiencing I am thanking my lucky stars. I have had a couple of bad bouts but nothing compared to some. Well,at least the operation is now done more easily than years ago. No more big scar and 6 to 8 weeks recovery. Four tiny holes and you are out the same day. The doctor even says some people have gone back to work after two days but some take a week. Me, I'm taking the week. It seems 99% of operations for gall bladder removal are done this way. Only 1% can't be once they get in and then when they cut it is only about 3 inches instead of right across the one side of from your belly button over.
If you need the surgery hopefully this info will make you feel better....

Posted by: Pat at September 1, 2006 8:08 PM

Ok i got a question: After i got my gall stone removed is it normal for me to not have a period now??? its like after they took it out i got it irregular and now i havent got it for 2 months just curious. I hope someone knows and responds.

Posted by: Tina at September 5, 2006 3:23 AM

I also have been having back pain everyday and wondered what was wrong with me...I'm only 38 yrs old and feel too tired to stand up straight because of my back. The nausea, indigestion, gas, etc. is there too...but I also feel light-headed, weak, and just a general since of "malaise" over me. Like I'm not myself and haven't been for some time. I had an ultrasound yesterday and have stones or polyps (my dr wasn't sure which). They said I need my gall bladder removed. I just wondered if these other "non digestive symptoms"(weakness/light headedness, etc.) are related to this also.

Posted by: Delaina at September 7, 2006 7:52 PM

i would like to now if i have gall stones, my left rib cage hurts, every time i eat something i feel like i want to vomit but i don't i'm constantly thirsty i drink from water, tea, gatorade and nothing is helping me, and everytime i drink or eat something i immediately have to go to the bathroom

Posted by: Vanesa at September 8, 2006 8:50 PM

I have been sick with these symtoms for a few months now. eatng is getting increasingly worse, my stomach burns! also something that feels like spasms in my abdomen,nasea,burping,bloating,pain in my back,shoulders and neck. sometimes diarea and sometimes constipation. I just feel like crying all the time from not feeling well. The doctos is having me do a hyda scan to see if i have gall bladder problems, ulta sound showed no stones. i feel for people having these problems. take care!

Posted by: Dee at September 12, 2006 1:36 PM

I'm so glad I found this site. I too am having those symptoms, right below my ribcage, like in the center, and goes straight through to my back, like some body is shooting a laser through me. I'm going through it right now.
In fact I'm taking ibuprofen to help.

Thank you.

Posted by: Amber Hayes at September 13, 2006 7:01 PM

I have been having "attacks" about once a month for the last year. I recently had one about 3 days ago in the middle of the night. They have gone away come morning but I have been getting them everynight since. It starts with a chest pain below my breast bone and remains there the whole time. It feels like heartburn but is more painful and feels hard. I have to take short breathes as it hurts to breathe. I then start to get sharp pains below my right rib and it travels across to my back. It is very tender to touch. I often feel sick to my stomach. I cannot lay down, sit up or stand up. I have found one way to help with the pain and that is too lay in a warm bath. Does this sounds like gall stones to anybody? Also, do you have any recommendations for food to eat that will prevent me from having these attacks?

Posted by: Kalee at October 5, 2006 5:03 PM

I am having chronic pains in my stomach abount 2 inches under my rib cage. It woke me up out of my sleep last night which I thought it was gas. I never experience such pain since labor. my older sister just had her gall badder remove and I had blood in my stool two days before the pain. What do you think?

Posted by: latrina at November 9, 2006 9:18 PM

I have had the same symptoms since August. I went to my practinioner and she recommended seeing my gastroenterologist because I also have colitis. She said he would want to do an ultrasound to check my gallbladder. He didn't, insisting it was my colon giving me the pain and prescribed me prednisone for 2 months. Of course being a steriod I gained a bunch of weight and as soon as I was off of them, the pain came back. I went to the dr. on call and he ordered me an ultrasound, still doubting it was my gallbladder, but humoring me. He gave me samples of an acid reflex medicince. Finally 3 weeks later I had my ultrasound and what do ya know? Either stones or polyps. I am so angry because I graduate the end of December and my insurance is going to run out. If I have to have surgery, chances are I will not have coverage. If my doctor would have caught it I would have had plenty of time to have surgery!! I don't know how I can afford it.

Posted by: Brandi at December 7, 2006 6:49 PM

In september of 2005 I started to have runny stool every time I went to the bathroom. After it didn't stop I went to the clinic where they done some blood test and sent me home with a stool sample kit. The results were I had blood in my stool and I was a little anemic. She reffered me to a specialist and he said I had g.e.r.d.(advanced stage of acid reflux).I've been taking previcid and nexiam for that,I sure don't have heartburn anymore. Soon after I started taking these pills I started having this pain below my right lower rib. It has woke me from a dead sleep a few times and it also comes in the middle of the day. There dosen't seem to ba a pattern, just anytime it hurts.It is very painful. It feels like something is going to pop and it usualy last about two hours after I down some pain killers. At one time I didn't sleep for four days.I went in to the Dr. on the fifth and he scheduled me for a sonogram at the hospital for this thursday to check for gallstones. I've tried to eat healthier and laid off the pop and coffee but it is still there. I had shoulder sugery when I was seventeen and I hated the experience. I'm a little worried about this sugery if I have to have it. I have a thirteen year old son who has the same pain every day. Now it is starting to interfear with his school becouse my wife has to go get him early alot. I worry about him having this pain because I know how bad it hurts and he's too young to be having these problems.

Posted by: Cory Bernard at December 10, 2006 12:12 AM

I too am having all of the above proublems. About a year ago one night i was watching T.V and all of a sudden i had a pain in my upper right back like 4 or 5 inches down and i would actually have to stand (hunched over) in the shower just crying for like an hour until the pain passed. I had like 4 or 5 of thoose attacks after that for like 3 months. A family member who is a physician told me that that is where you will experience pains if you are haveing some kind of proublem with your gallbladder. well of course i put it off and it seemed to of gone away. Yet over the next year i was Always feeling tierd, i would be eaither constipated or having serious loose stools. I felt so overyly thirsty all the time and when ever i would eat it felt like literally the food was going thru me in a matter of seconds i would hit the john as soon as i finnished my plate. Well about 3 weeks ago i started getting pains in my back again but not as severe this time. i also started having pain right where my gallbladder is located, but what sent me into the emergency room is, i was taking care of my daughter and almost droped her because i was getting theese terrible light headed spells. I would almost feel it comming on by a wied cracking sound in the back of my neck and then sure enough i would have to brace myself against the wall. Also i became so Itchy, to the point where i was no longer sleeping because i could not stop scratching myself. i would take like 4 showers a day because i was feeling so dirty and nothing helped. So i went into the hospital a few days ago to finnally see what is going on. The doctor right away had me get an ultrasound and sure enough i have gallstones , allot of em. Well because of new years holiday the doctor said unless it was an emergency situation i will have to wait until tuesday until the surgeon call speak with me. Yet the pain is getting worse and so is my fainting spells. i have a few questions and they are: I have not heard anyone else speak of the itching yet my doctor said that it is a symtom of the gallstones. is there anyone out there having the itchy fellings i am?.
also is there anything i can do to make the pains that happen in my upper right side back calm down alittle. i know it sounds awefull but i found that if i make myself throw up when i am having thoose pains it seems to feel a little better. Although it is so hard to keep anything down lately i hate doing that to myself.
Has anyone noticed that dairy prouducts really seem to bother the situation?
well anyways i was so happy to read what everyone has said. Its nice to know that others know what i am going thru. oh yeah one last think i have had a couple people tell me that once they got there gallbladder removed they started having more proublems then before it was removed i am just wondering if anyone out there knows anything about this?
thanks again, much love and god bless and oh yeah i am so sorry about the spelling and grammer. i have no wisdom in either

Posted by: Serrahblue at January 1, 2007 9:04 AM

Finally, I found someone with similar symptons to me! It's been 3 months that I have not been feeling right. Pain in my right upper quadrant, some light headedness at times, shoulder and back pain, afraid to eat...I finally got a CT scan and it showed I have a distended gall bladder. The Hyda scan was okay, which I guess means my gall bladder is functioning, but why is it distended? Has anyone had these symptoms and had the gall bladder removed? Did that help? I'm at the point where I just want it out and hopefully I will feel better...

Posted by: Lisa at January 3, 2007 8:17 PM

hi.i've been diagnosed with gallstones and a hernia for over 2 months now .it has made my lifea living hell,thank god that iam schelued for surgery this morning at 10;30am finally.any one who may even think they have symptoms on gallstones should get checked out right away because if u dont it can turn into a gallbladder diease and thats deadly.so thanks for reading my story and good luck to all.

Posted by: sillychick at January 15, 2007 1:25 PM