What are pencil thin stools?
Changes in the stool can be related to changes in the diet or may be indications of a condition of the digestive tract. Narrowing of the stool may be due to a mass in the colon or rectum that limits the size of the stool that can pass through it. Conditions that cause diarrhea can also cause pencil thin stools.
Digestive Problems Spotlight
Persistent pencil thin stool, which may be solid or loose, is one of the symptoms of colorectal polyps or cancer. As the size of the polyp or cancer increases, it can decrease the internal diameter of the colon or rectum so that only thin stool can pass through. Other symptoms can include blood in the stool, abdominal discomfort, and unintended weight loss, particularly in the case of advanced colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancers are diagnosed in about 140,000 people in the United States per year.
Narrowing of the rectum or anus can be caused by enlargement of the prostate in men or may be a complication of anal fissures (tears or cracks), rectal ulcers, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis (inflammatory bowel diseases), or anorectal trauma or surgery.
The loosely formed stools of diarrhea may have a narrow, sometimes ribbon-like appearance. Diarrhea can have a variety of causes; it may go away on its own or become chronic. Diarrhea that is persistent or accompanied by other symptoms may require treatment.
Pencil thin stools that do not resolve within a couple of days or that are associated with other symptoms can be associated with serious conditions. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you have bloody stool, black or tarry stool, stool with pus, severe abdominal pain or cramping, high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), or if you suddenly stop passing stool. If you are having diarrhea, it increases your risk of dehydration, which can have significant complications. Symptoms of dehydration, such as decreased urination, excessive thirst, fatigue, and light-headedness, also require immediate medical care.
If your pencil thin stools are persistent or cause you concern, seek prompt medical care.
What other symptoms might occur with pencil thin stools?
Pencil thin stools may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Conditions that affect the digestive tract may also involve other body systems.
Digestive tract symptoms that may occur along with pencil thin stoolsPencil thin stools may accompany other symptoms affecting the digestive system including:
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What causes pencil thin stools?
Pencil thin stools can be caused by a narrowing in the colon, rectum or anus, or may occur as a result of diarrhea.
Causes of pencil thin stools related to narrowing of the colon, rectum or anusCauses of colonic or anorectal narrowing include:
- Anal cancer
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