Gallstones develop in your gallbladder, which is a small sac located below your liver in the right upper abdominal (stomach) area. Gallstones are formed when liquid that is stored there hardens into a pebble-like chunk.
Your gallbladder stores liquid bile that is used by your digestive system to digest fats. It works by contracting to push its liquid bile into your small intestine through the bile duct, where it can help with healthy digestion.
If your liquid bile contains too much cholesterol, bile salts or bilirubin, it can harden in your gallbladder to form gall stones. These stones have the potential to move from your gallbladder and lodge in any of the bile carrying ducts, thus blocking the flow of bile to your small intestine.
If a gallstone creates a blockage, pressure builds up in your gallbladder. And one or more of these symptoms may occur:
- right shoulder pain
- pain just under your right arm
- lasting upper right abdominal pain
- pain between your shoulder blades
This sudden onset of symptoms is often referred to as a gallbladder “attack” and this upper right stomach pain condition generally follows consumption of fatty meals, usually occurring several hours after.
Notify your doctor immediately if:
- clay looking stools
- fever, even low grade
- pain persists 5 hours or more
- experience nausea and vomiting
Your warning signs for a serious gallbladder problem are:
- persistent pain
Many have “silent stones” that don’t functionally get in the way of their gallbladder, liver, or pancreas. Therefore, no fever nor right abdominal and shoulder pain means no treatment is necessary.
Sometimes gallstones’ passing creates an inflammation in your pancreas, known as gallstone pancreatitis. This gall of a stone is extremely painful and potentially dangerous.
Factors that increase your risk for developing “shoulder and abdominal pain” gall stones include:
- 60 and older
- rapid weight loss
- moderately overweight
- cholesterol lowering drugs
- women 2 times likelier than men
- diets high in fat and cholesterol, low in fiber
- American Indians have the highest rate of gallstones
- pregnant, use hormone replacement therapy, take birth control pills
An accurate diagnosis is crucial because gallstone fever and abdominal pain symptoms are similar to:
If you are having frequent fever and upper right abdomen pain attacks, your gallbladder may need to be removed. Fortunately, you can live a healthy life without it.