The color of your feces is a clear indicator of the health of your digestive system. The normal color of stool is generally brown due to the break-down of old blood cells that further gets broken down into a substance called bilirubin which is released during bile production by the liver. Lack of bilirubin can result in white stool. The presence of low amounts of bile salts can be due to a number of reasons such as hepatitis or cirrhosis of the liver, blockage of bile ducts due to external compression, gall stones or inflammation. This makes it necessary to detect the actual cause of such occurrence.
Symptoms Associated with White Stool
Unless the cause and occurrence of having white stool is known with certainty such as prolonged use of high dose antacids or barium contrast X-ray exam it is advisable to see a doctor. Some of the common symptoms associated with occurrence of white stools include the following:
- Alteration in stool color especially accompanied by symptoms like weight-loss and fever.
- In the cases of high fever, changes in medical conditions such as severe abdominal pain, vomiting and seizures can be observed.
- Dehydration along with white stool can be life-threatening. During such circumstances, some of the symptoms to be looked for include increased thirst, fatigue and light-headedness.
- In such cases, it is necessary to consult a doctor immediately to take preventive measures and check the spreading of such disease.
Causes of White Stool
The causes and symptoms associated with white stool are many. While for some people the cause can be simple such as taking some kind of anti-inflammatory medication, anabolic components and birth control pills, for others it can be serious. Some of the serious causes of white stools include:
Alcoholic Hepatitis as a Cause of White Stool: Swollen or inflamed liver due to excessive alcohol consumption.
White Stools Caused Due to Viral Hepatitis: Viruses that cause Hepatitis A, B or C causes swelling up of the liver which can lead to white stool.
Biliary Cirrhosis: Irritation to bile ducts in the liver can lead to white stool.
Tumors: Bile duct tumors that cause inflammation of the liver can also result in white stool.
Cysts: Cysts on the bile duct prevents the normal flow of bile resulting in white stool.
Gallstones: Hardened deposits in the gall bladder can also prevent the normal flow of bile which might lead to gallstones.
Diagnosis Process for White Stool
Before prescribing any particular course of action the doctor will inquire about the accompanying symptoms and medications, if any, and conduct certain tests to diagnose the actual reason for such occurrence. The most common tests conducted include:
- Blood test to diagnose for jaundice or other infections.
- Computed tomography scans to identify the areas of swelling of the liver or bile ducts and its reasons.
- Abdominal ultrasound for developing a picture of the internal organs.
- Magnetic Resonance Cholangiopancreatography to capture detailed images of the biliary system.
Treatment for White Stool
Once the cause of occurrence of white stool is determined, the physician will be in a better position to determine the course of action. Occurrence of white stool due to malabsorption of fats can be countered by prescribing vitamins and diet supplements. In extreme situations, bile acid dissolution therapy or surgery may be the only solution.
Prevention of White Stool
There are certain conditions in which a white or pale colored stool is not preventable or curable while others are preventable if proper medication is taken at the right time. There are certain vaccines that prevent the occurrence of hepatitis. On the other hand, alcoholic hepatitis can be prevented by stopping the consumption of alcohol. In case of unknown symptoms of improper stool, start eating a balanced diet that is rich in fiber contents in order to ensure healthy bowel movements.
In most cases, the cause of white or pale-colored stool is detectable. Although, its color may be affected due to a number of reasons such as different foods and medications, a reduction or absence of bile salts can lead to a situation where the color of the stool turns white or pale. In any case, it is necessary to consult a medical practitioner to avoid any future complications.