Cholelithiasis is the medical term for gallstones. When you develop hardened deposits, or gallstones in your gallbladder, you may not know it or you may have significant symptoms. You may only have a few small gallstones or many large ones. Symptoms vary depending on the size, number, and location of your gallstones. Here are some telltale signs of cholelithiasis you need to know about, and what you can do about them:
Upper Right Quadrant Pain
Cholelithiasis, or other types of gallbladder disease, often causes pain in the upper right quadrant of your abdomen, which is where your gallbladder is located. Pain can be chronic and mild or acute and severe. The pain often radiates to the back and can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sweating, fever, and chills. The severe pain of a gallbladder episode is often referred to as "colicky" pain, which refers to pain that is typically very sharp in nature, develops suddenly, and generally comes and goes. Colicky pain also comes in waves or spasms.
If you develop upper right quadrant pain, especially after eating a high-fat meal, you may have gallstones or another type of gallbladder disease. Until you can see your doctor, place a heating pad on your upper abdomen, as the warmth may help stop the spasmodic pain. Be sure to keep the setting of your heating pad on low and turn it off before going to sleep.
If one or more of your gallstones obstruct your bile duct, your skin and the whites of your eyes may turn yellow. This condition is known as jaundice and is caused by the buildup of bilirubin, a yellow pigment that builds when your gallbladder is unable to drain properly. In addition to the yellowing of your skin or eyes, you may also notice that your stools are very pale or clay-colored. Your urine may also be very dark and resemble the color of tea. Jaundice caused by gallstones can also cause itchiness because bilirubin is very irritating to the skin. If you become jaundiced, see your doctor right away. While jaundice may simply indicate the presence of gallstones, it may be caused by other illnesses of the liver or pancreas.
If you develop any of the above symptoms, make an appointment with your gallbladder physician. If you are diagnosed with gallstones, your doctor may prescribe a special diet and may recommend that you take prescription medication to help dissolve them.