What are the signs of stool problems?

Changes in the color, consistency, size and frequency of stool can be a normal occurrence related to dietary changes. Stool symptoms often resolve on their own; those that last more than a few days may be related to a digestive tract condition.

Stool is normally brown due to the digestion of bile salts, which are produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. A reduction in bile salts due to liver disease, gall stones, and other conditions causes the stool to be pale. Dark stool can be due to dark foods, medications, or supplements, or may be due to digestive tract bleeding, which can result in red, maroon, or even black, tarry stool.

Floating stools, which may be bulky and unusually foul smelling, typically contain gas, which may be due to diet, infection, or absorption problems in the intestine. A greasy or oily appearance can be due to fat in the stool. Pus in the stool is an indication of infection. Mucus in the stool can be related to infection, inflammation, cancer, constipation, or conditions of the anus or rectum. Frequent, loosely-formed stool can be related to diet, medications, infection, inflammation, or food poisoning.

Narrowing of the colon, rectum, or anus from cancer, polyps, scarring, or other conditions can cause thin stool. An incomplete blockage of the intestines can cause diarrhea, as watery stool may be the only stool that can travel through it. Constipation followed by diarrhea can be related to fecal impaction, in which a large mass of hard stool forms in the rectum, preventing solid material from passing.

Stool symptoms that persist or are accompanied by severe symptoms may be due to a serious condition. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you have bloody stool or vomit, black or tarry stool, stool with pus, severe abdominal pain, high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), profuse sweating, change in level of consciousness, rapid heartbeat (tachycardia), decreased urination, or excessive thirst.

If your stool symptoms are persistent or cause you concern, seek prompt medical care.


What other symptoms might occur with stool symptoms?

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

Digestive tract symptoms that may occur along with stool symptoms

Stool symptoms may accompany other symptoms affecting the digestive tract including:


What causes stool symptoms?

Stool symptoms can be due to dietary changes or medications or may be related to conditions such as digestive tract bleeding, infection, inflammation, food intolerances or allergies, colorectal cancer, and conditions of the liver, pancreas or gallbladder.

Infectious causes of stool symptoms Read more about stool symptomscauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: May 7, 2014 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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