Stools with stringy, clear, white, or yellow mucus are normal. But when there’s enough mucus for you to see in the toilet, it could be a sign that something is changing in your digestive system.
Mucus in the stool is a common symptom of a number of digestive diseases. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and ulcerative colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can cause it. So it’s possible a bacterial infection, an anal tear or fissure, an intestinal obstruction, or Crohn’s disease (the second major form of IBD).
This article explores some of the main reasons why mucus may appear in your stool. It also explains when you should seek medical treatment.
Several organs in the body produce mucus. The mucus secreted by the colon (large intestine) protects the lining, creates a healthy environment for good gut bacteria, and makes stools easier.
The mucus in the stool is not harmful in itself. But too much can be a sign of an illness or condition that needs treatment. If the mucus layer secretes too much, it can leave the colon vulnerable to harmful bacteria.
Several conditions can lead to visible mucus in the stool. Here are some possibilities:
In ulcerative colitis, the mucous membrane of the large intestine becomes inflamed. It develops small sores called ulcers. These sores can bleed and form pus. They can also make enough mucus to be visible in the stool.
Irritable bowel syndrome
IBS often causes an excess of white mucus in the digestive system. It is more often associated with predominantly diarrheal IBS than with predominantly constipated IBS or alternating type IBS (IBS-A).
Men with IBS tend to have mucus in their stools more often than women with IBS.
Researchers aren’t exactly sure why this condition produces more mucus. Extra mucus with IBS doesn’t mean there’s a big problem or that the disease is getting worse.
Passing mucus in the stool is less common in people with Crohn’s disease. Sometimes it can mean you are developing an anal fissure or an anal laceration.
Health conditions that cause inflammatory bowel disease can cause extra mucus in the stool.
Abscess or anal fistula
One abscess is an infection that produces a pocket of pus inside the body. This is a problem that occurs more often in people with Crohn’s disease, especially in the perianal area.
In about 50% of cases, an abscess is large enough to form a tunnel between two organs or between the skin and an organ. This is called a fistula. An abscess or fistula can drain mucus into the stool.
Abscesses and fistulas need to be treated. Your healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics or other medications. In some cases, an abscess will require surgical drainage.
Some people have had a hysterectomy (or ileal failure or colectomy) can discharge mucus from the rectum.
During an ostomy, stool leaves the body through the stoma, not through the rectum and anus. But the rectum still produces fluid. If mucus builds up, it can cause discomfort and pressure. This can be done by sitting on the toilet seat.
Several bacteria can cause mucus in the stool, including:
Bacterial infections can also cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps.
Some bacterial infections go away on their own without treatment. Others may need antibiotics. If you think you may have a bacterial infection, especially after traveling abroad, call your healthcare provider.
If something is blocking your bowels, you may notice excess mucus in your stool.
Obstacles in the intestines can also cause:
Intestinal obstruction can be caused by a number of conditions, including:
- Affected stools
- Adhesions (scar tissue)
- Hernia (bulging tissue due to weak or torn muscles)
- Swallowing something that is not food
Obstacles are usually treated in the hospital. Sometimes the blockage must be removed surgically.
Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic condition that causes the body to make too much mucus. The effects usually affect the lungs, but can also affect the gastrointestinal tract. The lifelong condition is often diagnosed during childhood. Cystic fibrosis can also cause constipation and abdominal pain.
Mucus in infant poop
Mucus in an infant’s stool can be a sign of an infection. It’s important to find out if it’s actually mucus because normal baby poop comes in all colors. Mucus in your baby’s stool can be stringy or mucoid and green in color.
Talk to your baby’s doctor about changes in stool. If there is an infection, it will need to be treated immediately.
Mucus can accompany constipation. It may go away on its own when the constipation is treated.
Dehydration can also lead to an excess of mucus in the stool. It is likely to go away on its own unless dehydration is a chronic problem. In these cases, treating the underlying problem can resolve the problem of excessive mucus.
When to talk to a healthcare provider
If you haven’t been diagnosed with a health condition that often causes excess mucus, you should discuss the problem with your healthcare provider — even if it feels a little awkward.
It is especially important to see your provider about the following:
- Blood in stools
If you have a health condition that affects your colon and stool, make sure you monitor any changes to your stool and discuss any changes with your healthcare provider. your health.
If the mucus in your stool is new, diagnosing the cause will begin with a thorough history. Your healthcare provider will ask how you had your bowel movements in the past. You will need to explain how they have changed recently.
Your healthcare provider may also order some tests to help determine the cause. Stool cultures, blood tests, and imaging studies such as CT scans, MRIs, or X-rays are often used as diagnostic tools.
In some cases, the health care provider may need to perform other tests, such as an endoscopy, to find out what is going on. A colonoscopy is a test in which a small camera on a flexible tube is used to view the inside of the colon and rectum. However, in many cases, invasive testing is not necessary to find the cause.
Your treatment will depend on the cause. If inflammation is the problem, treatment will focus on reducing inflammation before it causes other symptoms.
When mucus is caused by IBS or IBD, controlling those conditions will help reduce mucus production in the large intestine. Excess mucus can mean that current treatments are no longer working and need to be changed.
A little mucus in the stool is normal. Mucus is produced in the intestines, where it helps nourish a healthy digestive system. However, if you can see mucus, it means something new is happening in your digestive tract.
Several health conditions can cause excess mucus. Irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, bacterial infections, and cystic fibrosis can all increase the body’s production of mucus. Anal fissures, bowel obstruction, anus, abscesses, and anal fistulas may also occur.
It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider if you notice mucus in your child’s stool. You should also seek medical attention if the mucus occurs with abdominal pain, blood in the stool, vomiting, and diarrhea or constipation.
You may need tests, including a stool culture, blood tests, imaging studies, or an endoscopy to find out what’s going on. A good diagnosis is the basis of effective treatment, so these tests will be worth your time.
A very good word
If you have IBS or ulcerative colitis, mucus in your stool isn’t necessarily a cause for alarm. But if the mucus is new or increased, you should mention it at your next physical visit.
frequently asked Questions
What does white mucus in stool mean?
White mucus in the stool is a symptom of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Common symptoms of this disease include abdominal pain often associated with bowel movements, an overall change in bowel movements (diarrhea or constipation), and bloating. If you have these symptoms, contact your health care provider so you can be diagnosed and treated.
How does Crohn’s disease affect stool?
Crohn’s disease can affect stool in some people by causing diarrhea. Ileocolitis is the most common form of Crohn’s disease. It causes inflammation of the terminal ileum (terminal point of the small intestine) as well as the colon.
What does bloody mucus in stool mean?
There are several reasons why blood or bloody mucus may be found in the stool. It can be caused by hemorrhoids, anal fissures, polyps, gastroenteritis, vascular dysplasia (due to weakened blood vessels in the intestine), or less often, cancer. If you are unsure of the cause, see your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
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