Gallstones: When to seek medical help?

By  , Expert Content
Jan 15, 2013

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Gallstone is a common medical condition in adults for which they visit their health care provider. Biliary colic is a common and dramatic presentation of gallstone disease. The person experiences sudden and intense pain in the abdomen that can last from 30 minutes to several hours (in some cases it may last just a few minutes). Abdominal pain is a common symptoms but it can be a symptom of some life-threatening condition if—it is intense, you have a heart condition or are older than 60.

Consult a doctor immediately for abdominal pain if you have:

  • Intense pain in the abdomen: Pain in a typical biliary colic may be felt in the middle of abdomen (i.e. below the breastbone and above the navel) or upper right side of abdomen.
  • Pain in abdomen is continuous and associated with fever, chills (and the symptoms do not seem to be caused by stomach flu or any other reason).
  • Pain in the upper abdomen associated with yellow discoloration of the skin and the white part of your eyes, dark yellow-brown urine, or light-colored stools.
  • Diabetes or an impaired immune system and have symptoms suggestive of gallstones (as the risk of complications is higher).

Consult a doctor if you have one or more of the following symptoms suggestive of some serious medical condition:

  • Jaundice, (yellowish discoloration of skin or whites of the eyes)
  • Clay-colored stools
  • Recurrent or frequent episodes of abdominal pain, indigestion, feeling unwell, nausea and vomiting, bloating sensation of the abdomen and passing excessive gas and belching.

Watchful Waiting

Watchful waiting can be considered in a person with first attack of gallstone pain (which was mild and not associated with complications such as blocked bile duct). During this period you will be monitored for signs and symptoms suggestive of progression of disease. Most doctors consider it better to wait until you have had another attack of biliary colic before proceeding with cholecystectomy (surgical removal of the gallbladder).

Who to consult

Some health professionals who can be consulted for gallstones include:

  • General Practitioner
  • Family Medicine Doctor
  • Physician assistant
  • Gastroenterologist
  • General surgeon.



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