Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"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.
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.
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