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Stool Color Changes (cont.)

What is the treatment for stool color changes?

The treatment for changes in stool color depends on the cause. As described previously, some changes in the color of stool can be due to the color of the ingested food. Other more significant medical causes may require simple or extensive medical evaluation and treatment.

Can stool color changes be treated at home?

As for self-care, it is important to recognize whether the change in stool color is persistent, recurrent, or transient (temporary). Generally, changes in stool color that are transient, for example, once or twice, and then return to healthy stool color are not as important as persistent or recurrent changes.

Some of the symptoms associated with changes of stool color also are important to recognize. For example, if the stool is red, maroon or black, it is suggestive of bleeding from the intestines, Symptoms of abdominal pain, lightheadedness, or dizziness (from losing too much blood) may require medical care more urgently.

What is the medical treatment for stool color changes?

Medical treatment for changes in stool color can vary widely depending on the cause. Examples may include:

  • Some common scenarios include gastrointestinal bleeding resulting in red, maroon, or black looking stool. In most cases, these are dealt with by gastroenterologists either in-office or in a hospital setting. Depending on the patient's description, physical examination, medical history, and results of diagnostic testing, the doctor may decide to treat with medications for stomach ulcers or inflammation in the stomach or the intestines.
  • In some situations, a specific treatment may not be available for bleeding, and the patient may only be asked to stop taking medications that can promote further bleeding (such as aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [NSAIDs], including ibuprofen [Motrin, Advil], or naproxen [Aleve]).
  • Sometimes medications are injected into the sites of the bleeding during endoscopic evaluations to help stop the bleeding. In rare situations where bleeding continues despite aggressive medical care, radiologists may pass catheters through the arteries and inject the smaller arteries that are feeding the site of bleeding with chemicals or beads to reduce the bleeding. Surgery may be required to remove part of the intestine that is the site of bleeding if more conservative measures fail.
  • Clay-colored or gray stools also are evaluated by gastroenterologists as well as surgeons. If the change in color is caused by a stone obstructing the bile or pancreatic duct, the gastroenterologist sometimes can remove the stone by performing an ERCP. In other cases, surgery may be necessary to remove a stone or a tumor.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/23/2016
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