The gallbladder is an organ that sits beneath your liver on the right side of your abdomen and stores bile, a digestive fluid. Hardened deposits of digestive fluid that form in your gallbladder are called gallstones. People can have one or many of these, and they can range in size from tiny to as big as a golf ball. Gallstones become problematic when they block your bile ducts and cause sudden, severe pain that requires immediate medical attention.
Symptoms of gallstones can include:
- Pain in the upper right abdomen or just below your breastbone that comes on suddenly and worsens
- Pain between your shoulder blades or in right shoulder
- Pain can last for minutes or hours
Some people have gallstones that don’t cause symptoms and can be left alone without treatment. However, it is important to be aware that if pain occurs or intensifies in the upper right abdomen, you should seek treatment.
If gallstones need to be treated, the options include:
- Cholecystectomy, or gallbladder removal surgery, as the gallbladder isn’t a vital organ, and you will still be able to digest food properly.
- Medication to dissolve gallstones, though these aren’t considered highly effective and are usually prescribed to patients who aren’t healthy enough to undergo surgery.