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Avatar universal

pain in left-upper abdomen: pancreas or gallbladder (or something else) ?

I have a long history of "stomach" problems for last 7 years - now I am 33. Most of the problems went away when bacteria was discovered and treated with antibiotics.
However for last 10 months I am feeling pain/pressure in my left upper abdomen. Initially it was an occasional feeling of pressure that came and go (there could be whole week of feeling ok). In last 3-4 months the pressure changed into pain and the pain is almost all the time there.

I will list my symptoms:
- pain/pressure in left upper abdomen. There is hardly an hour when I do not feel it. Sometimes it lasts for minutes, sometimes for hours. On 1 to 10 scale I would say it is around 2-3.
- the pain may go to my back (left side mainly) or to be close to my left shoulder
- in last 2 months the pain is more intense - I wake up during the night several times
- my stool is loose and a little bit yellow. I am mostly on vegeteranian diet, but when I eat meat the stool floats. I rather tend to have constipation, but anyway the stool is loose.
- I am not sure if my pain is related to eating - maybe a little bit, but I am feeling it so often that maybe I do not notice the regularity
- from total of about 10 hours pain per day I may have one or two minutes pain on my right side (under ribs or under right shoulder)
- sometimes in the evening I feel itching
- about 2 years ago I had very strong attack of pain (I would say 8 in 1-10 scale) on left side of my abdomen, that went to the middle. However in ER the doctor did not diagnose it as pancreatitis - he said gastritis. I never had that strong pain again.

Tests that were performed in last 6 months:
-gastrocopy: normal
-colonoscopy: normal
-ultrasound: sludge-like deposits in gallbladder
-gallbladder contraction test: contracts in 32%
-CT scan: normal
-MRI scan: normal
-endoscopic ultrasound: normal, however the doctor said that my pancreas consistency is more solid than usually in my age
-some blood tests showed bilirubin 1.9, but another one showed 0.4
-any other blood test was normal

My first gastroenterologist (did only gastroscopy and X-ray) said it was irritable bowel syndrome caused by my spine that is not perfectly straight.
My second doctor was telling me that it was gallbladder problem and sent me to a surgeon.
Surgeron said that my symptoms can not be explained by gallbladder and sent me for additional test.
Now I wait for appointment with the 4th doctor.

I was taking stool softeners and citrucel, but it did not help. I also was takin hyocamine (against spasms), but it neither helped. Taking advil (9 per day) helps, but without it I can hardly focus on my job.

I have following questions:
- should I remove gallbladder or not ?
- can a gallbladder cause stool to be loose, clay-like in color and make it float ?
- are there any other tests that should be done ?
- what do you suspect to be the most probable cause of problems ?

Sincerely,
Jerzy B.
112 Responses
Avatar universal
Dear Jerzy,
It would be presumptuous of me to make suggestions regarding surgery without taking a history and doing my own physicial examination.  With regard  to your other questions:
1) blockage of the common bile duct by stones, even if the blockage is only temporary, can cause clay colored stool;
2) given the question of a possible pancreas problem, additional evaluation of the pancreas with ERCP may be helpful

I am afraid that specific diagnoses can not be offered based on the information provided
Avatar universal
Hi Jerzy -

I have similar pain for the past 2 months (and also have been predominately vegetarian for the past 20 years) as do lots of us in another threaded discussion here (see "Upper Left Quadrant Pain" below).

It's very frustrating, and also scary living with the pain, but as long as your tests keep coming back okay, keep pushing them (the Drs.) to look further if you can.  I just spoke with a friend who is an osteopath who said the myriad of possibilities in diagnosing abdominal pain is endless, anything and everything from intestinal parasites to toxoplasmosis to Crohn's to IBS, etc etc, and it just takes a persistent doctor (s) to get to the root of it.  Since your tests returned negative, is sounds like most of the life-threatening things have been ruled out.

I'm sorry I have no experience with gall bladder problems. I hope the Doctor who answers these questions responds to you soon, as I am curious about her/his professional response.

Good luck and check out the other posts below, as I mentioned.  We're all hoping someone has some success with diagnosis so that we can share the info!

Carol D.
Avatar universal
Same thing here----
I have battled the upper left abdomen / unexplainable pain for years....been thru every test - abdominal scans, GI series, ultra sounds, colonoscopy, endoscopy, etc..etc...
recently had another ab scan...all normal as can be---am scheduled for another endoscop in  a few weeks....am sure nothing will be found..
I keep saying  DOC----something has gotta be wrong !! something is being overlooked....it's right by/under the rib cage & it's always there...sometimes it gets soooo bad  I could scream----have never figgured out if food related or anything---no pattern anywhere..
F R U S T R A T E D  !!!  arghhhhhh

take care...Rob
17567 tn?1276205629

I have the same symptoms. the pain sometime extend around to my back and up to my sholder and arm. I agree with Rob something is wrong. I wish someone would come up with a anwser.
Avatar universal
Dear Jerzy, I can only suggest the same to you as I did to Kimberly.WHOLE HUSK PSYLLIUM.Make sure its fresh and keep it in the fridge after you open it.If your gassy or have diariah or constipation It will make you regular again.People go there whole lives with gallstones and never have problems.There are so many things that cause many of these symptoms.I think anyone who's having gastric type problems should probably try to stay away from problem foods such as hard alcohol,spicy foods,garlic,lemons,limes(there go my gin & tonics)anything with citric acid,caffien (ya right)high fat meals ,chocolate etc.& especially eating too fast or too much at at a time.I tend to have gallbladder like attacks if I overeat due to a spatic asophagus. Its better to eat many small meals  instead of 2or 3 large ones for poeple like us.I always make sure to keep snacks with me like bananas,protien bars or shakes.I was serprised to find that anything with peppermint,like Altoids,really killed me.Hope this helps!.
Avatar universal
Dear Jerzy B.,

     I have had the same symptoms for years. It seems to be worse

lately and I've developed a lump on my back where it is always

hurting. I have constant pain under my front left rib and right

next to my left shoulder blade. I'm constantly scared because it

also makes it hard to breathe. My doctor doesn't find anything

and I don't have the financial means to find an answer. I'm told

I'm just under alot of stress. I just figure that someday with

the pain I have, something bad will happen and I'll end up in the

hospital and then someone will believe me.I also have chronic

trapped gas, can't burp, can hardly expel gas,and a clogged

potatoes-in-the-throat feeling, dry cough, symptoms are never

ending. On mornings when I'm having this problem, my chest and

back are so stiff and I can't expel the gas, I'll lay there for

hours trying to relieve gas(which hardly ever works)because when

I stand up it will go behind my left rib and cause constant

pressure. I wish you luck on your diagnosis and if it's helpful

please pass it on.


                            Sincerely,

                            Cindy C.




Avatar universal
Dear Jerzey,
     I have the exact same symptoms that you describe. I posted many months back under upper left quadrant pain if you want to hear my whole story. The only difference is that in the last month or so my pain has moved to mostly the right side. My second GI MD has given me a 'presumptive' diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis. He can't officially diagnose me as it is so hard to diagnose in the early stages and every test has so far been negative. It is very frustrating. He did start me on pancreatic enzymes-8 with every meal and before bed. The pain has improved with them but is still there. Some days it is so bad I do take pain meds but in general I try to stay away from them.
     Take care and don't give up!!
      Elizabeth
Avatar universal
I am experiencing similar symptons except they are more in the middle top part of my stomach and on both the left and right sides and it goes around to my back. I have already had my gallbladder out. Point me in the right dorection as to what you think the diagnosis might be
Avatar universal
I have a 14 year old daughter that has been going through this same pain,such as,left side in the upper rib cage.
Pain in her shoulder.She can't eat right because of nasusa. She is loosing weight. She just saw a doctor about htis and she put her on Pepcid RPD. He does take this pain away,but now she was told to go on a bland diet.We need help.
She also plays soccer and this pain worsens as she plays.she buckles in pain.HELP!!
Avatar universal
This is the first site I have found where people are complaining about up back pain.I have had all the same symptoms for a few years.  I too, have been through many tests and have been told it is stress related or maybe lactos related.  The pain is mainly in the mid to left side of my stomach and goes to the left side of my back.  The pain in my back is almost constant.  I find that a heating pad helps me sleep.  I feel like there is a lump in my throat, but it doesn't stop me from eating.  I have no energy by the end of the day and some times it feels like my right kidney hurts.  I was taken to the hospital last April with terrible pain in my lower back and right side.  After many tests they desided I was passing a kidney stone.  I did have blood in my urine and ended up with a nasty bladder infection the next day.  Which cleared up with anti-biotics.  The kidney stone (if there was one)  has never been found.
Avatar universal
Carol -

you really need to be the squaky will with the medical system and press for further testing for your daughter. Is she losinbg weight because she isn't eating, or is she eating normally but losing weight?  You are entitled to a second opinion of you have na HMO - I just recently found this out.

I would think the pepcid would be to treat reflux (from which I also suffer bouts of), but the reflux pain is usually dead center between my ribs where the end and it is usually a sharp stabbling pain.  I have asked my doctor if the pain in my left side could be related to my reflux and she doesn't think there's a relation. Fortunately my docotor is willing to p[ursue all the test routes until she comes up with an answer.  You need to be assertive on your daughter's behalf and insist that your Dr. pursue further tests if the Pepcid treatment doesn't produce any positive results.

Good luck - let us know how it goes -

Carol D.
Avatar universal
I have had this same pain for about 20+ years, off and on. I have been reading on the use of antacids, for the most part these do not help in my situation. I have been looking at he possible idea of NOT enough stomach acid as a real possibility. I have just finished a course of antibiotics for Broncitis. Ever since taking the antibiotics I have had another bought with this pain. I am quite aware of the need to replenish the bacterial flora after there use. One thing that has helped more than anything is the use of digestive enzymes and acidophilis.
If I take fairly high doses of acidophilis every morning before putting anything in me stomache for about 5-7 days and then use 2-3 caps of digestive enzymes every time I eat I find that the pain subsided. I have just recently been using this and it is about the only thing that has helped.

As to the use of any acid blocker, it is my understanding that a doctor should NEVER perscribe this type of medication unless there is clear evidence to indicate it,ei:Ulcers etc. It is necessary to the digestive process. Possible lack of stomache acid, causing putrification of undigested food can be the culprit?
It was suggested years ago that it is a pancreatic problem but all tests rule this out.
Maybe this info will be of use to someone.
Avatar universal
jerzy                                                               I have some of the same problems as you if you get any answers  let me know  ok   kb
Avatar universal
I HAVE PAIN AND LOOSE STOOLS SINCE MY GALLBLADDER WAS REMOVED IN JANUARY 1999.I HAVE HAD SOME OF THE SAME SYMPTOMS YOU HAVE. THE PAIN SOMETIMES IS UNBEARABLE.I HAVE CHANGED DOCTORS AND I HAVE ANOTHER ERCP NEXT WEEK.I ALSO HAVE NAUSEA TOO. CERTAIN MEALS AND EVEN SOUP MAKE ME HURT.
Avatar universal
Jerzey...

The Gallbladder is on the right side, so if everything you are feeling is on the left, I would doubt it has to do with the Gallbladder.  I had sludge in my Gallbladder at one time, and was told that can come from a number of things, and taking the Gallbladder out wouldn't take care of my pain.  Eventually, I ended up with many stones in my GB, and it was removed.

Also, I have Chronic Pancreatitis, and from my experience and those of others I have spoken with, don't have pain on the left side, it is more right sided pain.

Sorry I can't help with more.  I do hope you get some relief and some answers to your problem.  I know how frustrating it can be.

Good luck!

R
17567 tn?1276205629
Ifound out that I have diverticulitis
Avatar universal
For about a month I have had a tightening in my upper stomach or middle chest area.  I am woken in the night by it.  I feel short or breath because of it, and I feel pain when I drink hot drinks or cold drinks.

Someone suggested that I have a hiatis hernia.  And that perhaps it has bubbled up quite a bit out of the stomach.  I have had six children...past that now, but I feel like I am nine months pregnant and have no room to breath and there is no room for my food.

Avatar universal
Nearly identical symptoms.  Yellowing of the stools is very distinctive.  I've been surprised that that symptom is not more useful to the docs.  All the same tests and results.  Currently awaiting results of a Serum Trypsin test for pancreatic function.  Docs are resisting ERCP because of possible complications.  Very interested to hear what you find out.  

-  I do find that Ibuprofin and Prilosec are the best for symptomatic relief.  Prilosec discovered by accident.  Had some possible GERD symptoms (difficulty swallowing)...GERD symptoms went away, but ULQ pain did not. ULQ pain was never helped by OTC antiacids or Zantac type meds.  Believe the Prilosec controls the acid inside the stomach that is irritated by whatever is causing the pain, and the Ib acts as an anti-inflammatory on pain source.  

- Keep posting if you find something.  I'll do same.
Avatar universal
My wife (age 36)was admitted 2 days ago with acute upper abdominal pain.
The pain radiated from the front to the back. She in slightly anemic and suffering a little weight loss, without explanantion.
Otherwise we both live quite healthy lifestyles and eat organic produce form our family farm. She does suffer form a fair amout of stress from worry.
Doctors say it is most likely an inflamation  of the pancreas or gallstones (or both). Should I seek further private investigations into long term disease or possible pancreatic cancer?

Thank you
Avatar universal
For years I had pain in my left upper quadrant right under my ribs. It varied in intensity from hour to hour, day to day.  I came to the conclusion that maybe I, unlike the majority of people, felt stomach pain there instead of right in the center.  This assumption proved correct when I developed a lump feeling in my throat and then chest pains, that after 8 months saw a doctor for.  I was diagnosed with esophageal reflux and put on Prilosec. I never got "heartburn". A few weeks after starting the prilosec not only did the two new syptoms disappear but also the mysterious left sided pain that I had lived with for years disappeared also. Every time I try to stop taking the medication all the syptoms reappear.
Avatar universal
Carol,
I have a 13 year old son who suffered severe upper left quadrant pain.  He had several tests done and all came back negative.  His pediatric GI finally did an ERCP.  They slightly dialated his Sphincter of Oddi and other than deveoping pancreatitis he was in good shape for about 3 months.  The pain and nausea came back with a vengence.  We took him to several doctors trying to find answers to his pain, nausea and vomiting.  We had one tell us it was completely in his head! We decided even if it were his pain was very "real" to him. We then took him to a pshycologist who specializes in pain management.  He gave him "coping tools" to deal with the pain while we continued to try and find out what was wrong.  After doing a lot of research our GI doctor agreed to do another ERCP along with a Sphincerotomy (he cut the Sphincter of Oddi).  Our son is doing GREAT!!!  He hasn't had any pain for 2 months now.  The doctor said if he is still doing this well after 3 months he will write a paper on his case.  Our son did not have all the typical symptoms that go along with Sphincter of Oddi dysfunction.  I guess the pain is typically more to the right instead of left.  At any rate, continue to look for answers.  Every doctor we saw said stomach problems can be difficult to diagnose. One surgeon who performed abdominal exploratory surgery said that a child could not pretend to be sick for 2 years and not to let anyone tell us it was in his head.  I'm so grateful we didn't give up.
Avatar universal
I have some of the same syptoms pain in
my upper stomach between my rib cage that
goes thru to my back,bloating,and
yellowish fluffy stools in the days that
I am having the attack the only way the
pain will go away is if I get on my
knee's and lean over the cough so that
there is no pressure in my stomach or 2
percocits pain pills. I feel sick to my
stomach frequently but no vomiting. I
have had pancretitis 3 times before and
It feels some what like that without the
vomiting and releif of pains like bending over a couch.I've had blood test done
some test come back high white blood cell count and low red blood cell and within 4 hours it can change drastictly lower on
white count. Ive had upper GI normal and ultrasound which they saw sludge in my
gallblader but no other test. I'm taking
prevacid it seemed to help after 7 days
but if I miss 2 days my pain and bloating comes back, when I say bloating I'm
talking 7 months pregnant big. I spoke to a person whom told my she had the same
symptoms and it turned out to be gall
bladder disease and no test showed it but a exploratory surgery, they took her gall bladder out but it didn't help because it took to long for them to find the problem that she now has problems with her liver
and pancrease and still lives with the
pain. So myself thats my next step is to
demand this be done so I'll keep in touch and If anyone has had this sugery done
and nothing was found please let me know.
***@****    thankyou all for your input.
Avatar universal
I have some of the same syptoms pain in
my upper stomach between my rib cage that
goes thru to my back,bloating,and
yellowish fluffy stools in the days that
I am having the attack the only way the
pain will go away is if I get on my
knee's and lean over the cough so that
there is no pressure in my stomach or 2
percocits pain pills. I feel sick to my
stomach frequently but no vomiting. I
have had pancretitis 3 times before and
It feels some what like that without the
vomiting and releif of pains like bending
over a couch.I've had blood test done
some test come back high white blood cell
count and low red blood cell and within 4
hours it can change drastictly lower on
white count. Ive had upper GI normal and
ultrasound which they saw sludge in my
gallblader but no other test. I'm taking
prevacid it seemed to help after 7 days
but if I miss 2 days my pain and bloating
comes back, when I say bloating I'm
talking 7 months pregnant big. I spoke to
a person whom told my she had the same
symptoms and it turned out to be gall
bladder disease and no test showed it but
a exploratory surgery, they took her gall
bladder out but it didn't help because it
took to long for them to find the problem
that she now has problems with her liver
and pancrease and still lives with the
pain. So myself thats my next step is to
demand this be done so I'll keep in touch
and If anyone has had this sugery done
and nothing was found please let me know.
***@****    thankyou all for
your input.
Avatar universal
PLEASE HELP! Recently my boyfriend experienced what we thought was hepatitis A. After having blood work twice it was found that his bilirubin is very high.Additionally, the blood work for the hepatitis A came back negative as well as the stool samples that were taken. Also, he had an ultrasound that showed nothing but if there is sand in his gallbladder then it would not show up on the ultrasound. The gastric specialist he was referred to by his HMO made fun of his claims and claimed he had irritable bowl syndrome ( which for this doctor is like having cold). I am particulary worried since his mother died of gallbladder cancer and his father had his gallbladder out when he was thirty (my boyfriend is twenty-eight). If any one can send me information or share their similar problem I would greatly appreciate it. I can be reached at jmh1 @ms1.allencol.edu
Thank you
J IN PA
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