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Symptoms of gallstones

medical-guides-gallstonesThe majority of people with gallstones are unaware of their gallstones. Gallstones which do not cause anv problem are termed as ‘silent’ stones. These gallstones are often discovered accidentally as a result of tests(e.g. ultrasound or X-rav examination of the abdomen) performed while evaluating medical conditions other than gallstones. Silent gallstones may be small enough to pass through the ducts and out of the body. Silent stones may also be quite large, and remain in the gall bladder. However, they can cause problem any time. Once symptoms develop, the symptoms are likely to recur.

Gallstones cause problems:

• When they partially block the flow of bile out of the gall bladder, the bile remaining in the gall bladder becomes more concentrated. This irritates the bladder walls, causing inflammation of the gall bladder. This condition is also known as cholecystitis.

• When they get stuck in ducts that carry bile from the liver to the small intestine, causing sudden severe pain called biliary colic. The most common symptom of gallstones is biliary colic. Biliary colic comes on suddenly or builds rapidly to a peak over a few minutes. It is a constant pain – it does not come and go, though it may vary in intensity. It is usually severe. Patients experiencing biliary colic feel so restless due to pain that they often walk about or twist the body in different positions in bed trying to find a comfortable position.

Biliary colic is most often felt in the middle of the upper abdomen or the right upper abdomen just below the margin of the ribs. Occasionally, the pain also may be felt in the back at the lower tip of the scapula on the right side. If the pain is felt beneath the sternum it can be mistaken for angina or a heart attack. It lasts for 15 minutes to 4-5 hours. If the pain lasts more than 4-5 hours, it means that cholecystitis or a complication has developed. An episode of biliary colic subsides gradually once the gallstone shifts from its position and the obstruction is released.

Biliary colic is a recurring symptom. Once the first episode occurs, there are likely to be others. Along with the pain there may be other symptoms – nausea, vomiting, bloated sensation in the abdomen, and yellowish colour of the eyes.

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