Abdominal Pain vs. Gallstones: Causes and Signs

The pain or discomfort coming from your abdominal area is commonly called abdominal pain. It is usually related to the organs in your abdomen consisting of the stomach, small and large intestines, liver, gallbladder, pancreas or spleen.

Abdominal pain can be caused by inflammation, blockage in the intestines, loss of blood supply, or extra sensitivity to the nerves of the organs.

Gallstones are formed inside of the gallbladder. They are solid, calculi, material made by growth from cholesterol and pigmentation in the spleen. This growth can pass from the gallbladder to the cystic duct, common bile duct, or the pancreatic duct. If the stone blocks these ducts it can cause serious life-threatening conditions like inflammation of the pancreas. If your pancreas is inflamed, it can cause you to have a lot of digestive problems.

If you have gallstones it can cause many other problems as well such as severe inflammation in the intestines which causes withholding of the bile in the gallbladder. Because of the inflammation, an infection from the bacteria being in the intestines can arise.

The signs and symptoms of abdominal pain as opposed to gallstones can be difficult to differentiate, but a few things to keep in mind about gallstones are:

  • A Characteristic sign of a gallstone is an intense pain in the upper-right side of the abdomen that increases in intensity for 30 minutes to several hours.
  • Gallstones are usually accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
  • Pain can be felt below the right shoulder or shoulder blades.
  • Gallstone attacks can happen after a very fatty meal and usually at night.
  • Intolerance to fatty foods, gas, indigestion and bloating are all symptoms that, when taken together with the pain, can mean you have gallstones.

When your physician is making a diagnosis, of the cause of abdominal pain, a few things they take into consideration are: the origin of the pain or how it began, the location of the pain, the pattern of the pain, the duration of the pain or how long it lasts, and if anything makes it worse or relieves the pain.

Upon physical examination, the doctor will determine what tests to administer based on the findings. Together with your history and physical, laboratory tests, x-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds, barium x-rays, and an MRI can be used to find your diagnosis.

Increased temperature, diarrhea, or bleeding from your rectum can be other symptoms of a Gallstone. Tenderness and inflammation in the left lower abdomen, usually, means you may have inflamed pouches in the colon, or an abscess may have formed. Tenderness in the lower right abdomen can mean appendicitis or Crohn’s disease.

Often times, surgery is needed to resolve the Gallstone. Occasionally, all that is needed to cure abdominal pain is medication to get rid of the infection and inflammation.