What causes mucus in stool?

The digestive tract normally produces some mucus to help digested food and waste slide through it. Abnormal amounts of mucus in the stool may be caused by a variety of conditions ranging from inflammation and infection to obstruction and cancer.

Digestive tract causes of mucus in stool

Mucus in stool may be caused by digestive tract conditions including:

  • Anal fissures (tears or cracks) or fistulas (abnormal holes or tubes between organs or tissues)
  • Bacterial gastrointestinal infection, such as Salmonella food poisoning, Campylobacter infection, or traveler’s diarrhea
  • Cancer of the digestive tract
  • Celiac disease (severe sensitivity to gluten from wheat and other grains that causes intestinal damage)
  • Diverticulitis (inflammation of an abnormal pocket in the colon)
  • Food allergies (allergic reaction to certain foods)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS; digestive discomfort that does not cause intestinal damage or serious disease)
  • Lactose intolerance (an inability to digest lactose, the sugar in dairy products)
  • Parasite infections such as Giardia infection
  • Rectal ulcers
  • Viral gastroenteritis (viral infection of the digestive tract, also called stomach flu or intestinal flu)

Serious or life-threatening causes of mucus in stool

In some cases, mucus in the stool may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Bowel obstruction
  • Colonic volvulus (twisting of the colon)
  • Intussusception (telescoping of the intestines into themselves, which can reduce blood supply, cause obstruction, and tissue death)

Questions for diagnosing the cause of mucus in stool

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your mucus in stool including:

  • When did you first notice mucus in your stool?
  • Have you noticed any other changes in your stool or bowel habits?
  • Are you having pain or discomfort anywhere?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • Have you noticed anything that makes it better or worse?
  • Have you recently eaten or drunk anything that is unusual for you?
  • Is there any possibility you may have eaten spoiled food?
  • Do you have symptoms more frequently when you eat certain types of foods?
  • What medications are you taking?

What are the potential complications of mucus in stool?

Because mucus in the stool can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Anemia (low red blood cell count)
  • Bowel obstruction, perforation or infarction (severe injury to an area of the bowel due to decreased blood supply)
  • Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance due to long-term diarrhea
  • Spread of cancer
  • Spread of infection
  • Surgery to remove parts of the digestive tract due to obstruction, rupture, serious infection, or malignant condition

References:

  1. Diarrhea. MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003126.htm.
  2. What I need to know about Irritable Bowel Syndrome. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/ibs_ez/.
INTRODUCTION

What is mucus in stool?

Mucus is a smooth, thick substance produced in many places throughout the body, including in the lining of the digestive tract. Mucus lubricates surfaces and allows materials to pass smoothly. Some amount of mucus in the stool is normal; however, significant amounts of mucus and mucus accompanied by diarrhea, pain or blood may signify an intestinal condition such as infection or inflammatio... Read more about mucus in stoolintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with mucus in stool?

Mucus in stool may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the digestive tract may also involve other body systems.

Digestive tract symptoms that may occur along with mucus in stool

Mucus in the stool may accompany other symptoms affecting the digestive tract including:

... Read more about mucus in stoolsymptoms

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 7, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System


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