Gallstones are common. They are caused by crystallization of bile salt and other minerals in the bile.
Most gallstone does not give rise to any symptoms. They should be left alone.
Some gallbladders do not function properly and as a result, the stone may get stuck for a few hours at the neck of the gallbladder after a heavy meal. This results in a pain that is felt in the upper abdomen which can last anything from one to six hours. The pain is usually severe. It can go to the back. Occasionally the pain is accompanied by nausea and vomiting. This symptom is known as biliary colic.
Biliary colic precedes serious complications of gallstones such as cholangitis (infection of the bile ducts), cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder) and pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). Once there is biliary colic, one should seriously consider surgery to remove the gallbladder to prevent these serious complications.
Jaundice and Bile Duct Obstruction
Any obstruction of the bile duct would result in jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the white of the eyes).
Jaundice that is caused by a stone in the bile duct (cholangitis), is usually accompanied by signs of infection such as fever. If the obstruction occurs acutely, there may be a significant amount of pain.
Jaundice that occurs slowly may not cause pain. One of the causes of painless obstructive jaundice is cancer of the head of the pancreas.
Besides obstruction of bile duct, jaundice can occur in liver diseases and hemolysis (where red blood cells have shortened lifespan).