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)
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
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:
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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)
Spread of cancer
Spread of infection
Surgery to remove parts of the digestive tract due to obstruction, rupture, serious infection, or malignant condition
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- Diarrhea. MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003126.htm.
- What I need to know about Irritable Bowel Syndrome. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/ibs_ez/.