ZocdocAnswersHow can I tell if I have a gallstone?

Question

How can I tell if I have a gallstone?

I have pain in my lower abdomen that comes and goes but gets worse after I eat. Is this a gallstone? My dad suffered from them so I'm wondering if I have them too.

Answer

Abdominal pain associated with eating can be caused by a variety of disorders, one of which may be gallstones. Gallstones classically cause pain in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen, and these pains are usually exacerbated by the intake of (especially fatty) meals. These pain attacks occur as a stone becomes temporarily lodged at the opening of the gallbladder, blocking the outflow of bile. An ultrasound of the gallbladder and a thorough medical history are usually enough to make a diagnosis of gallstones. If this is in fact the diagnosis, then an elective removal of the gallbladder can be considered. However, since there are many other conditions that can cause abdominal pain, you should certainly seek further work-up from your primary care physician. Warning signs such as blood in the stool, nausea/vomiting, or weight loss can point toward other diagnoses such as inflammatory bowel disease, colon cancer, or peptic ulcer disease. Your doctor can conduct a thorough history and exam, check for any abnormalities on blood tests, and make sure that you are up-to-date on all of your cancer screening tests, such as colonoscopy.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.