The normal stool should be brown, soft to firm in consistency and very easy to pass out. Changes in your stool color, consistency and frequency may indicate that there is something wrong going on in your body. However, not all of them require you to visit our doctor. Changes in stool that should trigger a doctor’s visit are discussed in this text.
When should I see my doctor about my stools changing?
If you notice any of the following changes in your feces, consult your doctor:
Stool color varies, but it usually falls within the brown hue spectrum, depending on the meals you eat. If your stools are red, maroon, black, or “tarry,” you should be concerned, especially if they have a strong stench. This could indicate the presence of blood in the feces.
Either hemorrhoids or anal fissures (a tear in the anus) are likely to be the cause of small amounts of bright red blood in the stool or toilet paper, and should not be a cause for alarm. If you notice more than a few bright crimson streaks in your stool or on the toilet paper, or if you have bloody diarrhea, you should contact your doctor.
Furthermore, pale stools that are clay or white in color and are frequently accompanied by a change in urine color (black urine) may suggest a problem with your biliary tree, such as bile duct stones or liver-related difficulties. If you get fevers, chills, right-sided upper abdomen pain, or skin yellowing, contact your healthcare practitioner or go to your local emergency department.
Consistency (degree of firmness)
Stools should be soft and easy to pass through. Constipation can be indicated by hard, dry stools. Constipation that lasts longer than two weeks should be reported to your doctor. Also, if you’re experiencing nausea, vomiting, or stomach pain, and you haven’t been able to pass gas or stools, this could indicate an obstruction (blockage). You should contact your healthcare practitioner or go to the nearest emergency room.
Mucus and fluid will leak out surrounding the stool if it becomes impacted (lodged) in the rectum, causing fecal incontinence. If you have mucus or fluid leaks from your rectum, contact your doctor.
Diarrhea is characterized by loose, watery bowel motions. It is a common ailment that is usually not life-threatening. If you have any of the following symptoms, you should contact your healthcare provider:
- When you pass stools or gas and have acute stomach pain or discomfort that does not go away.
- When you have a fever of 101 degrees or higher, chills, vomiting, or fainting with diarrhea.
- You have severe diarrhea that has persisted up to two days in an adult, one day in a kid under the age of three, or eight hours in a baby under the age of six months.
- You have severe diarrhea and have recently taken antibiotics.
- You are elderly, pregnant, or immunocompromised (take steroids, TNF-alpha inhibitors like infliximab [Remicade®] or etanercept [Enbrel®], or transplant rejection drugs).
- You’ve been suffering from diarrhea for more than two weeks.
The average duration between bowel motions varies significantly from person to person. Some people have bowel motions multiple times a day, while others only have them once or twice a week.
A period of more than three days without a bowel movement is excessive. After three days, passing the stool gets increasingly difficult. As bowel movements become more difficult or less frequent, constipation develops. If you haven’t had a bowel movement in more than two weeks, you should see a doctor so that he or she can figure out what’s wrong and treat it.
Only a small percentage of persons with constipation have a more significant medical condition (such as the poor function of the thyroid gland, diabetes, or colon cancer). Early detection and treatment of colon cancer could save a patient’s life.
If you have unexpected, sudden impulses to urinate, you should also consult your healthcare practitioner. This could indicate a rectum mass or inflammatory bowel illness.