Mucus is a white or yellowish substance produced by your digestive system to ease the passage of stool through the intestines. It lubricates the insides of your bowels to prevent damage from feces. As this substance literally coats your intestines, the presence of mucus in stool is completely normal.
However, a big amount of mucus may be a symptom of a serious health problem. In these cases, the patient usually requires immediate medical attention because the condition can deteriorate quickly.
When to Call a Doctor?
When your digestive system is healthy, the amount of mucus in your feces will be minimal. In the majority of cases, you will not be able to see it with the naked eye.
A large amount of mucus can be a reason for concern if it’s accompanied by the following symptoms:
- Extremely foul smelling stool
- Abdominal pain
- Sudden changes in the color or consistency of your stool
- Gas and bloating
- Nausea (with or without vomiting)
- Bloody mucus or blood in your stool (the color of blood can vary)
- Changes in your bowel movement patterns
- Abdominal swelling
- Inability to control your urge to pass stool
- Pain during bowel movement
- Pus in your feces
- Not producing urine
- Rigidity of the abdomen
- Rectal bleeding
- Vomiting blood
Some of these symptoms indicate life-threatening conditions, so it’s imperative to consult a doctor as soon as possible. You also need to keep track of your bowel movement patterns and check the color and shape of your stools. Any irregularities must be noted and discussed with your physician.
In the majority of the cases, slight deviation from the norm isn’t a reason for concern. However, if the issue persists for several months or you start experiencing abdominal or rectal pain, you have to seek medical attention.
- Bacterial gastrointestinal infections – The bacteria that cause this type of infection can get into your body through contaminated water, food that wasn’t processed properly, or from your unwashed hands. This condition is usually accompanied by diarrhea, cramps, nausea, and abdominal pain. The presence of blood is extremely rare and can indicate a more serious problem, because infection rarely causes direct physical damage to the intestines.
- Celiac disease – This condition is caused by extreme sensitivity to gluten. It results in intestinal damage, which means that there might be both mucus and blood in your feces.
- Anal fissures – This is the name for tears and cracks that can appear for a variety of reasons, like constipation, pregnancy, hemorrhoids, etc. They are usually characterized by pain and bleeding.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and Crohn’s disease – Crohn’s disease is a form of IBD. Both these conditions are chronic and characterized by rectal bleeding, anemia, weight loss, ulcers, fever, and skin problems. Doctors cannot determine the direct cause of this condition yet, but it is believed that the abnormal function of your immune system can cause your body to attack harmless substances in your intestines. This may lead to the development of chronic inflammation.
- Diverticulitis – This condition occurs when your diverticula are inflamed. Diverticula are sacks that form in your intestines due to your colon being subjected to abnormal pressure. This causes small pouches of intestinal lining to protrude through your intestinal walls and form diverticula. Over 50% of Americans who are older than 60 have diverticulosis. 25% of them develop diverticulitis which is accompanied by abdominal pain, vomiting, mucus in feces, changes in bowel habits, and cramping.Treatment of this disease relies on combating the direct reason for the inflammation (bacterial or fungal infection) and treatment of symptoms (pain medication). This condition can lead to intestinal obstruction and therefore, become life-threatening. Self-treatment is extremely dangerous in this case.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – This condition is characterized by pain in your lower belly, white or yellow mucus in feces, bloating, and irregular bowel movements. Neither of these symptoms is particularly dangerous and can be caused by a variety of reasons. However, if they persist for over a month, you have to consult a doctor to check for IBS. The treatment plan will depend on the symptoms you display and their severity. Diet is an essential component of any IBS treatment program.
- Bowel obstruction – There are many reasons that can lead to bowel obstruction. In some cases, this condition can be fatal, so it’s imperative to seek medical assistance if you experience symptoms such as constipation, extreme pain in the abdominal area, rectal bleeding as well as blood and mucus in stool.
- Food allergies (including lactose intolerance) – In this case, you will most likely notice white or yellow mucus in your feces. This condition isn’t dangerous if you stop ingesting the food that causes the problem in the first place. There is always a risk of extreme allergic reactions that require immediate medical treatment.
- Cancer – There are several kinds of cancer that can affect your digestive tract. Even if mucus is the only symptom you have, you should check with your physician to run the necessary tests and eliminate the threat of this disease.
- Rectal ulcers – Ulcers can be caused by a variety of reasons. They are accompanied by pain and bleeding. In some severe cases, the patient may require surgical treatment for this condition.
- Viral gastroenteritis – This condition is also known as stomach flu. It can be extremely debilitating due to constant vomiting, diarrhea, and high fever. However, it is not life-threatening and can be cured in less than a week with the right treatment.
- Parasite infections – In case of parasites, the “mucus” you notice in your stool can be the decomposing corpses of the organisms that took residence inside you. This condition can be diagnosed by a simple test of your feces. Parasites can cause a lot of damage to various systems in your body. It’s imperative to take regular tests and undergo preventative treatment, especially if you have pets or work with animals.