Mild and intermittent pain in the pit of the stomach is a common and often subjective symptom of gallstones. Bile salts, cholesterol and worn out blood cells collect in the gallbladder. Abundant green and yellow crystals, varying in size and shape, form hardened plaque in the gall bladder. Gallstones are common in obese women with high levels of estrogen. Losing weight, avoiding high-fat foods and shunning fad diets can decrease a woman's risk for developing these rich bile deposits.
Wedged in the bile duct, a tube that leads to the intestines, the stones' moving or lack thereof causes intermittent pain. Described as dull, stabbing or cramping, pain spreads from the right side of the abdomen to the back and up into the right shoulder blade. Doctor’s describe "silent gallstones” as symptom-less gallbladder disease. When symptoms are apparent, women experience acute pain in their upper abdomen. This pain appears suddenly after eating a high-fat meal. Reports of acute pain may last from 30 minutes to several hours, according to New York University's Langone Medical Center.
Nausea and vomiting can occur within an hour to several hours after eating. Too much bile entering the small intestine or leeching into the stomach can cause gallbladder disease. Trapped in the opening of the bile duct, bile crystal collects and forms stone blockages. Unable to absorb the excess bile salts and cholesterol through the lining of the small intestine, nausea and vomiting occur. A feeling of abdominal fullness is reported in gallbladder disease as well as loose and clay-colored stools. To correct this combination of stomach reflexes, intermittent pain in the upper abdomen and fever, surgery may be required.
Clogged bile ducts engorge with bile crystals and cholesterol, causing inflammation. Infection enters the septic bag of bacterial debris that leaches into the small intestine. The immune system surrounds the bile duct with inflamed tissue to protect other organs and tissue from exposure to the infection from the gallbladder. Rushing through the bloodstream, white blood cells flush out the bacterial infection temporarily. This measure alone is not enough. Trapped gallstones become gallbladder disease. Symptoms of high fever, pain in the upper abdomen, nausea and vomiting could indicate the need for surgery.
This genetic disorder can increase bile crystal formation in pregnant women. Individuals with excess billirubin from sickle cell anemia and chronic hemolytic anemia also are at risk. Cirrhosis of the liver, complications from diabetes and bone marrow or organ transplants can cause bile duct dysfunction that lead to gallstone formation. Additionally, those at increased risk for gallbladder disease include individuals who are Native American, African American and Hispanic. Seek immediate medical attention for symptoms of acute pain with accompanying fever.