Complications from Gallstones

Most of the time, gallstones don’t produce any symptoms and they disappear by themselves. However, in some cases they can cause a range of complications.

Here, we’ll look at some of the most common complications of gallstones and how they are dealt with.

Inflammation of the Gallbladder

If the bile duct becomes totally blocked, it can lead to inflammation of the gallbladder. This is down to a build-up of bile, leading to irritation and inflammation. It is medically known as acute cholecystitis and includes the following symptoms:

* Pain in the upper abdomen and the shoulder
* A rapid heartbeat
* A high temperature

Usually, this condition is treated with antibiotics first. You will then usually need to undergo keyhole surgery to unblock the bile duct. If treatment isn’t provided, the gallbladder could end up tearing, resulting in peritonitis. This would require an emergency operation to fix.

Inflammation of the Pancreas

One of the most severe, but less common complications of gallstones, is inflammation of the pancreas. Otherwise referred to as pancreatitis, you’ll experience severe pain in your upper abdomen, accompanied by nausea.

This type of complications tends to occur most in bile duct stones. If a stone becomes stuck in the common bile duct, it can in turn block the opening which is shared by both the pancreas and the gallbladder. As the digestive juices produced in the pancreas have nowhere to go, they start to attack the pancreas. It is important to note that pancreatitis can be fatal, so it will need immediate treatment.

Acute Inflammation of the Bile Duct

An acute inflammation of the bile duct is another complication to be aware of. It produces much of the same symptoms as inflammation of the pancreas, only the pain won’t be quite so severe.

An inflamed bile duct can cause a range of further complications, some of them more severe than others.


If the flow of bile is disturbed by gallstones, it can lead to jaundice. This can be a really worrying condition, causing the skin and the whites of the eyes to turn yellow. It is often associated with serious illnesses and it will require treatment.

You’ll need to wait to see if the stones pass by themselves. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to have them removed to treat the jaundice.

Cancer of the Gallbladder

The most severe and rare complication from gallstones is cancer of the gallbladder. It is estimated that four out of five people who have gallbladder cancer, have a history of gallstones. However, that being said, you still have less than a one in 10,000 chance of developing it even with a history of gallstones.

The symptoms of gallbladder cancer are very similar to those of gallbladder disease. They include abdominal pain, a high temperature and jaundice.

These are some of the main complication’s gallstones can lead to. For this reason, it is important to seek advice from your doctor if you do suspect you have them. Most of the time gallstones don’t lead to any complications. However, fast treatment will be required if you do develop them.