In the case of certain conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and ulcerative colitis (a form of inflammatory bowel disease), passing mucus in the stool can be a common occurrence. Mucus is a typical component of a healthy stool, but it is normally only present in very small amounts which would not be seen with the naked eye. Visible mucus in the stool could be also be due to a bacterial infection, an anal fissure, a bowel obstruction, or Crohn's disease.
Mucus is a clear, white, or yellow substance with the consistency of jelly that is produced by the mucus membrane of the large intestine. Mucus is also produced by other organs in the body, such as the lungs, where it helps to trap any foreign particles that are inhaled. In the intestines, mucus protects the inner lining and helps ease along the passage of stool. Passing mucus in the stool is not harmful in and of itself, but it could be a sign of a disease or condition that may require treatment.
If you have not been diagnosed with a condition where passing mucus could be considered a typical symptom, you should see a physician. This is especially true if the mucus is accompanied by other digestive symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, constipation, or vomiting.
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In ulcerative colitis, the mucus membrane of the large intestine (colon) becomes inflamed and develops small sores that are called ulcers. These ulcers bleed and may also produce pus and mucus. The mucus may be voluminous enough that it can be seen as it is passed along with the stool.diarrhea-predominant IBS than with constipation-predominant IBS or alternating type IBS (IBS-A).
Bacterial infections, such as those from Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, and Yersinia, may cause mucus to be passed in the stool. A bacterial infection may also cause symptoms of diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. Some bacterial infections may resolve on their own without treatment, but some cases may be serious and require treatment with antibiotics. If you think you may have contracted a bacterial infection, especially after traveling abroad, contact your physician.
A bowel obstruction is associated with symptoms of constipation, severe cramps, abdominal distention, and vomiting, as well as the passage of mucus. A bowel obstruction could be caused by one of many conditions such as impacted stool, adhesions (scar tissue), a hernia, gallstones, a tumor, or swallowing a non-food item. Obstructions are typically treated in the hospital, with surgery to remove the blockage being necessary in some cases.
The passage of mucus in the stool in the setting of IBS or ulcerative colitis is not necessarily a cause for alarm, because it can be a sign of those conditions. However, passing mucus in the stool, especially if it is a new symptom, should still be mentioned to a physician at the next office visit. Mucus without an underlying cause, such as one of the pre-existing conditions mentioned above, is a change in bowel habits and should be reported to a physician immediately.