Gall stone symptoms (gallstones) do not necessarily arise when gall stones are present in the gallbladder. An individual may develop gall stones over many years before, and if, any complications or symptoms would appear.
Gall stones are formed from crystals in the gallbladder or bile ducts and usually are comprised of cholesterol, although they can also be formed from components of the bile itself (bilirubin). They are common in the Western world with increasing age, especially from cholesterol.
Small gall stones may pass through the bile duct and into the small intestine along with the normal bile drainage from the the gallbladder. Complications arise when larger stones partially or completely block the bile duct and prevent the drainage of bile from the gallbladder.
Stones that cause a blockage of the bile duct typically lead to inflammation and perhaps infection of the gallbladder.
Gall Stone symptoms:
- abdominal pain
- chills (if infection develops)
- fever (if infection develops)
- intermittent abdominal pain
- pain in right shoulder
Diagnosis is typically through observation of presenting symptoms. Ultrasound or CT scanning can confirm diagnosis. Other imaging techniques are sometimes used. Blood tests may show elevated white blood cell counts if an infection is present.
Treatment is typically with change of diet if pain or episodes are intermittent. Advanced complications can be treated with surgical removal of the gallbladder. Drugs may also be administered to attempt to dissolve the stones over a few months or years, although it has been shown that a large proportion of individuals reform stones within several years of treatment.
A blockage of the bile duct caused by a gall stone is typically removed surgically. Commonly these individuals may undergo additional surgery to remove the gall bladder entirely at a later date.