Gallstones are small rocks that form in the gallbladder that vary in size. There can be anywhere from a single large stone to multiple gravel-like stones. Many people with gallstones may never experience any symptoms. Symptoms vary from mild upper abdominal discomfort and bloating to severe pain due to life-threatening acute pancreatitis.
The presence of gallstones in a diseased gallbladder can be responsible for the mild symptoms of upper abdominal discomfort, bloating, and nausea; these symptoms can be confused with symptoms of other conditions, such as acid reflux or peptic ulcer disease. When one of the stones blocks the gallbladder the patient will experience severe upper abdominal pain which is "crampy", the condition is called biliary colic.
If the blockage is not relieved biliary colic can progress into acute cholecystitis, which is an emergency.
When the gallstones are responsible for the symptoms of pain, nausea, or vomiting patients should seek a surgical consultation to consider the option of laparoscopic cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal surgery) as soon as possible to avoid serious complications of the gallstones.