The gallbladder stores and releases a fluid called bile into your small intestine.

Gallstones are hardened deposits of digestive fluid that can form in the gallbladder. These hardened deposits or stones can cause pain and other complications.

Gallstones range in size from the size of a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. Some people develop one gallstone while others develop many.

For people who experience symptoms from their gallstones, treatment is usually gallbladder removal surgery. Gallstones that don’t result in symptoms typically don’t need treatment.


Gallstones may cause no signs or symptoms.

If a gallstone lodges in a duct and causes a blockage, the resulting signs and symptoms may include:

  • Sudden and rapidly intensifying pain in the upper right portion of your abdomen
  • Sudden and rapidly intensifying pain in the center of your abdomen, just below your breastbone
  • Back pain between your shoulder blades
  • Pain in your right shoulder
  • Nausea or vomiting

Gallstone pain may last several minutes to a few hours.

When to see a doctor

Seek immediate care if you develop signs and symptoms of a serious gallstone complication, such as:

  • Abdominal pain so intense that you cannot sit still or find a comfortable position
  • Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
  • High fever with chills

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