What is it?

The gallbladder is a hollow, pear-shaped sac that sits beneath the liver on the right side of the body. This organ produces a yellow-green liquid called bile. This liquid enters the small intestine, which breaks large fat globs into smaller ones. When the gallbladder becomes diseased, the flow of bile is reduced and becomes a thick sludge. The stagnant bile crystallizes over time, and the crystals bind together and form stones.

Who's at Risk?

Women account for three-fourths of all gallstone patients; however, men and women of all ages can have gallstones. Factors that contribute to developing gallstones include taking birth control pills, eating a high-fat diet, being pregnant, losing weight too quickly, and being obese.


About 50 percent of people with gallstones don’t know they have them, don’t have any symptoms, and do not need treatment. The other half have abdominal pain that occurs when a stone moves from the gallbladder and becomes lodged in the bile ducts. The pain is sharp and severe, and it often occurs in the right upper abdomen. It can last anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours, often after meals that are particularly high in fat. Pain is often felt in the right shoulder or between the shoulder blades, which causes some people to confuse it with a heart attack. Additional symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and low-grade fever. If gallstone symptoms are not treated, damage can occur to the pancreas and liver.


Gallstones are occasionally found on X-rays that are performed for unrelated reasons. Liver and pancreas blood tests that measure enzymes in the blood can also help identify gallstones.

Gallstones Health Tips Video

This condition is a buildup of small, pebble-like deposits in the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small, non-vital organ located just below the liver. The gallbladder stores bile, which is produced in the liver, until the body needs it. The gallbladder then pushes the bile into the small intestine, where it aids in the digestion of fats.