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Stools - pale or clay-colored

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Causes

Possible causes for clay-colored stools include:

There may be other causes not listed here.

Considerations

The liver releases bile salts into the stool, giving it a normal brown color. You may have clay-colored stools if you have a liver infection that reduces bile production, or if the flow of bile out of the liver is blocked.

Yellow skin (jaundice) often occurs with clay-colored stools. This may be due to the buildup of bile chemicals in the body.

Definition

Stools that are pale, clay, or putty-colored may be due to problems in the biliary system. The biliary system is the drainage system of the gallbladder, liver, and pancreas.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The provider will perform a physical exam. They will ask questions about your medical history and symptoms. Questions may include:

  • When did the symptom first occur?
  • Is every stool discolored?
  • What medicines do you take?
  • What other symptoms do you have?

Tests that may be done include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if your stools are not the normal brown color.

Review Date: 7/22/2016
Reviewed By: Subodh K. Lal, MD, gastroenterologist at Gastrointestinal Specialists of Georgia, Austell, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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