The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ under the liver. It stores bile, a fluid made by the liver to aid fat digestion. As food passes from the stomach to the intestines, the gallbladder releases bile through a tube called the common bile duct. This duct connects the gallbladder and liver to the small intestine.

Gallstones form when substances in the bile harden. These gallstones can block the passage of bile and cause unwanted symptoms. After eating, people with gallstones may refer to these symptoms as a “gallstone attack” or a “gallbladder attack.” The symptoms may include nausea, vomiting or pain in the abdomen, back or just under the right arm.

Gallstones are often found during imaging tests for other health conditions. If you do not have symptoms, you usually do not need treatment. The most common treatment is removal of the gallbladder. A person can live without a gallbladder, and bile has other ways to reach the small intestine.

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