Light colored stool in adults forms when something disrupts the normal functioning of the biliary system, causing the stool to appear light or pale. The stool may also take on the color of putty or clay, light yellow, gray or white. A number of factors can cause the feces to become pale. Certain medications and dietary habits can render the feces light colored. However, pale stool could also be indicative of a more serious medical disorder that requires prompt treatment.
Pale stool in adults is treated based on what is causing it. Some cases may simply require dietary changes and vitamin supplementation to achieve the normal hue. Others, though, may need more intensive medical attention, and sometimes, even surgical procedure to address the problem that has been blocking the bile duct.
Light colored stool in adults causes
Light colored stool in adults form when the fecal matter lacks bile. Under normal conditions, the liver produces bile while the gallbladder stores it. Bile is then excreted into the intestine, giving the stool its brown color. The absence of bile can cause the stool to become grayish or pale, and this could be due to several reasons:
- Certain drugs
Tuberculosis medications have been found to affect the bilirubin level which causes the stool to appear pale. Drugs used in treating diarrhea can also cause light colored feces. Furthermore, light colored feces in adults could be a result of ingesting barium sulfate for gastrointestinal X-ray examination.
Stool may also turn pale or light colored because of gallstones. Gallstones could obstruct the bile duct once they get large and cause other discomforting symptoms like abdominal pain and bloating, fever and even jaundice.
- Blocked bile duct
Obstruction of the bile duct leads to pale colored stool. The bile duct is the channel through which bile travels going to the intestines. Blockage may come in the form of benign or malignant tumors within the biliary system (gallbladder, pancreas and liver) as well as strictures, structural issues and inflammation.
Pale stool could be a sign of cancer as is usually the case with pancreatic cancer which causes the stool to appear pale yellow.
- Liver diseases
The absence of bile in the stool causing it to appear light colored could be caused by some problems in the liver itself, such as cirrhosis and hepatitis.
Affected individuals may experience other unpleasant, and sometimes, unspecific symptoms along with light colored stool, such as loss of appetite, nausea and fatigue. On the other hand, light colored stool in adults require prompt treatment when it is accompanied by jaundice and darkened urine. The person should be taken to the hospital immediately if life-threatening conditions develop, such as confusion, breathing difficulties and unresponsiveness.
Diagnosis and treatment of light colored stool in adults
Individuals who are suffering from the condition will have to go through a series of tests and evaluations, including physical exam and medical history assessment, to pinpoint the underlying cause. The doctor may conduct blood tests, CT scan, abdominal ultrasound and endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography. He or she will plan the treatment based on the confirmed underlying cause of light colored stool in adults, so this may differ from person to person.