Could Your Abdominal Pain be Gallstones?

If your life is impacted by gallstone issues, book an appointment online or over the phone with Illinois Gastroenterology Gro

There’s a lot going on in your abdomen because it’s the home of many of your vital organs. That means there’s also plenty of suspects if you start to experience abdominal pain. From stomach aches, kidney stones, or appendicitis, there’s no shortage of sources for pain.

One source of potential pain is gallstones. In this blog, the gallbladder specialists at Illinois Gastroenterology Group discuss what gallstones are and how you may be able to recognize a gallstone attack. 

The location and function of your gallbladder

Tucked under your liver on the right side of your abdomen, your gallbladder sits below your bottom rib. It serves as a storage point for bile, a substance secreted by your liver that aids digestion by breaking down fats for nutrient extraction.

The gallbladder is believed to be a redundant organ. Even when it’s removed, your liver continues to make bile and digestion still function as it always has. However, if your gallbladder works as intended, there’s no reason to remove it. When gallstones become an issue, though, it’s another matter.


Many people have gallstones and are completely unaware they have them. Gallstones are hardened deposits of some of the components of bile, and gallstones can remain in the gallbladder without ever causing symptoms.

Occasionally, though, a gallstone may enter the bile duct. If the stone is large enough, it can block the flow of bile to the intestines. When a gallbladder is blocked, pain can result.

How to recognize a gallstone attack

If you have abdominal pain on the right side at about the base of your ribs, there’s a chance it could be due to gallstones. Typically, the pain comes on quickly and elevates in severity very fast. Gallstone pain doesn’t always happen in this location, though.

You may feel sudden, intense pain centrally, just below the breastbone, a spot at which you may suspect stomach or heart issues. It’s even possible to experience back pain, most often between your shoulder blades or in your right shoulder.

Your pain symptoms may also be accompanied by feelings of nausea, and vomiting is not uncommon. Attacks usually last from a few minutes to several hours. An attack could happen right after eating a meal or hours later.

Gallstone complications

Left untreated, gallstone attacks can become more severe, and blockages can lead to serious health issues, such as jaundice, infections, and even pancreatic problems. Medical intervention is usually needed once you become prone to gallstone attacks.

Sometimes, oral medications can dissolve gallstones, but this can take months to years to work effectively, and you’ll still be susceptible to gallstone formation if you discontinue the medication. These are typically only used when a patient isn’t a good candidate for surgery.

Removing your gallbladder is often the best course of action to resolve recurring gallstone issues. You can still digest food normally, though some patients may have diarrhea temporarily after the procedure.

If your life is impacted by gallstone issues, request an appointment online or over the phone with Illinois Gastroenterology Group. The board-certified gastroenterologists can diagnose your problem and get you healthy again.


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