Medical Specialties: Emergency medicine, Internal medicine, Surgery

Clinical Definition

A gallstone is a crystal deposit that forms in the gallbladder or bile ducts. Gallstones vary in chemical structure and form due to imbalances in the substances that makeup bile. For example, decreased amounts of bile salts, excess cholesterol or bilirubin may lead to gallstone formation. 

In Our Own Words

The gallbladder is a small greenish organ that stores and dispenses bile, and is located under the liver. Gallstones are crystals that can develop within the gallbladder, and they can also form in the bile ducts. Some conditions, such as sickle cell anemia and cirrhosis, promote gallstone formation.


You can have gallstones for years without any problems, but you can also develop serious illness from a gallbladder packed with stones, or when just one stone gets stuck in the wrong place.

Relevant Conditions
  • Cholecystitis
  • Gallbladder attack (biliary colic)
  • Gallstone ileus
Common Types
  • Pigment gallstones
  • Cholesterol gallstones
Side Effects
  • Pain in the upper abdomen
  • Pain in the right shoulder
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Yellowing of the skin
Share this article
  • National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. "Gallstones." Accessed October 2013.
  • Cedars Sinai Medical Center. Gallstones/Gallbladder Disease. Accessed October 2013.
  • The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. "Gallstones." Accessed October 2013.
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