What is white stool?

Although the color of stool can be affected by different foods and medications, it is typically brownish due to digestion of bile salts, digestive agents made by the liver and stored in the gallbladder.

Digestive Spotlight

A reduction or absence of bile salts can cause the stool to become a pale clay-like color. Bile salt production can be reduced due to severe liver disease such as hepatitis or cirrhosis. The passage of bile salts into the intestines can be prevented by blockages of the bile ducts inside or outside of the liver due to inflammation, gallstones, or external compression. Pain, especially in the right upper abdomen, fever, nausea, itching, and yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice) can also occur with these conditions.

Medications containing aluminum hydroxide can turn the stool white, as can barium, a white substance sometimes used to help show the digestive tract on X-ray.

Stool is not normally white and you may require emergency treatment in some situations. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, high fever, significant vomiting, seizures, changes in mental status, or sudden behavior changes. Symptoms of dehydration such as decreased urination, increased thirst, fatigue, and light-headedness, also require immediate medical care.

Seek prompt medical care if you have white stool unless a specific cause, such as prolonged antacid use or a recent barium study, can be identified. White stool can be associated with a serious medical condition.

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with white stool?

White stool may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Conditions that affect the stool may also involve other body systems.... Read more about white stoolsymptoms

CAUSES

What causes white stool?

Stool is normally brown due to the digestion of bile salts, which are made by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. When the amount of bile salts is significantly reduced or they are absent, the stool can be pale or even whitish. Liver disease can interfere with the production of bile salts, and anything that blocks the bile ducts can prevent bile salts from reaching the intestines.... Read more about white stoolcauses

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 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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