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What Is Anal Mucus Discharge? Common Causes & More Explained

Anal mucus discharge may be caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or an inflammatory disorder like colitis. It can also be caused by food poisoning or a stomach flu, so it's important to look at other symptoms to get the right diagnosis and treatment.
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Anal mucus discharge explained

Mucus is a slippery or slimy substance that is naturally produced by your bowels. It helps lubricate stool as it moves through the bowels and can protect bowel walls from more abrasive foods that you might eat (e.g. small seeds and nuts). It also helps prevent fluid loss from the walls of the colon and keeps them moist. The amount of mucus you're producing may vary and may be accompanied by stool or blood.

Common accompanying symptoms of anal mucus discharge

Other associated symptoms of mucus discharge may include the following:

You should seek care promptly if you experience persistent or worsening diarrhea, abdominal pain, or discharge. A physician can determine the cause and the best course of treatment.

What causes anal mucus discharge?

The causes of increased mucus discharge can be effectively separated into four categories: infections, inflammatory conditions, diet, and malignancy.

Infectious causes

Many types of infections can cause inflammation of the walls of the large intestines and activate “goblet cells,” which produce mucus.

  • E. Coli: There are many types of E. Coli. Some types can cause watery diarrhea while others cause bloody diarrhea or diarrhea coated in blood and mucus. Two of the most common strands that cause diarrhea with mucus are EHEC (Enterogenic Hemorrhagic E. Coli) and EIEC (Enterogenic Inflammatory E. Coli). EIEC is usually “self-limited” meaning it resolves on its own. EHEC can sometimes cause transient kidney failure in children and may require dialysis.
  • Campylobacter: Campylobacter is a corkscrew-shaped bacterium that often occurs after consuming undercooked poultry or food that has fecal matter on it. This can occur if you use the restroom and then prepare food without washing your hands well enough. It can cause frequent (10 or more) loose stools per day with both blood and pus as well as severe abdominal pain. In most people with normal immune systems (e.g. no HIV, chemotherapy, or bone marrow transplants), Campylobacter usually causes up to two weeks of symptoms. It is resistant to multiple types of antibiotics, so the main treatment method is electrolyte-rich fluids and bed rest.
  • Entamoeba: Entamoeba is a parasite commonly contracted by ingesting feces (e.g. a food preparer’s unwashed hands). This parasite can cause a condition called amebiasis in which large amounts of diarrhea are produced that are full of the “cysts” or eggs of the organism. It is easily treated with antibiotics.

Inflammatory conditions

Many diseases can cause excess mucus in the stool due to inflammation of the bowels.

  • Crohn's disease: This almost always involves the small intestine, and occasionally, it involves both the small intestine and the colon. For a small minority, only the colon is involved. Among those with colonic involvement, it is possible to have blood, pus, or mucus discharge from the anus, especially during flares. Strong anti-inflammatory medications are the main treatment. With proper control, it is still common to have frequent bowel movements, but symptoms of infection and anal discharge may decrease.
  • Ulcerative colitis: This is a separate inflammatory condition that affects the bowels. It commonly involves the lower intestines and the rectum. Colitis refers to inflammation that may cause abdominal pain, incontinence, and discharge of blood and mucus from the anus.
  • Celiac disease: This may present early or later in life and classically presents with foul-smelling, floating stools, as well as diarrhea and flatulence. Celiac disease can lead to severe nutrient deficiency because it damages the portion of the colon necessary for this to occur. In extreme cases, celiac disease can cause high-volume stools with scant mucus.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): This is characterized by a cramping sensation and other variable symptoms. Nearly half of all people with irritable bowel symptoms complain of anal mucus discharge. Notably, irritable bowel syndrome is not associated with other symptoms of bowel inflammation. Bloody stools are considered uncommon for IBS.

Cancerous causes

Cancerous causes of mucus discharge may include the following.

  • Anal cancer: This form of cancer is uncommon. It primarily affects the anus but can spread to other areas of the body. The symptoms of anal cancer are common in many other types of benign (non-cancerous) disorders including hemorrhoids and anal fissures, making it sometimes hard to notice. The common symptoms include itching or pain around the anus, rectal bleeding, and mucus discharge from the anus.
  • Colon cancer: This a common type of cancer that often has no symptoms until late in its progress. Symptoms are most commonly caused by the impact of the mass of cancer on the passage of stool. Blood in the stool, constipation, or anemia from the loss of blood are common symptoms. One type of colon cancer, called mucinous adenocarcinoma, makes up about one in five colon cancers and is made primarily of mucus with cancer cells mixed in. This type of cancer can cause mucus discharge. However, most colon cancer is asymptomatic and discovered through age-appropriate screening.

Anal mucus discharge conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced anal mucus discharge. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Genital warts

Genital warts are one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. It is caused by infection by Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). While it cannot be cured, treatment may help.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: small groin lump, skin-colored groin bump, marble sized groin lump, painless groin lump, scaly groin bump

Symptoms that always occur with genital warts: scaly groin bump

Urgency: Primary care doctor

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Viral gastroenteritis (stomach bug)

Viral gastroenteritis (stomach bug) involves inflammation of the stomach and intestines. This illness can be caused by many different viruses, including Norovirus, Rotavirus, Enteric Adenovirus, Sapovirus, and Astrovirus. Infection with one of these viruses leads to a combination of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. Not everyone will have the same symptoms or intensity of symptoms. When diarrhea and/or vomiting is severe, dehydration can occur.

Without any alarming symptoms (such as persistent vomiting, severe abdominal pain, or severe dehydration), gastroenteritis is typically safe to treat at home. This condition is contagious and can be spread through close contact with other people.

Ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis means there are sores, or ulcers, on the inner lining of the large intestine. This causes the chronic inflammation within the large intestine known as colitis. It is a form of inflammatory bowel disease.

The exact cause of ulcerative colitis is not known, but family history and an autoimmune disorder within the large intestine are thought to be involved. Most susceptible are those under age 30 and over age 60.

Symptoms include abdominal pain and cramping; diarrhea with blood; nausea; loss of appetite; weight loss; and fatigue. There may also be fever, anemia, and joint pain.

Diagnosis is made through patient history; physical examination; blood tests; stool sample tests; and, in some cases, endoscopic examination of the large intestine with biopsy of the damaged tissue.

Treatment involves referral to a gastroenterologist and addressing the abnormal autoimmune response. Medications such as corticosteroids or immunomodulators will be prescribed, often for life, along with acetaminophen for pain, antibiotics for infection, and changes in diet. Surgery may be tried in some cases.

Crohn's disease

Crohn's disease is an inflammation of the bowel. It is caused by a faulty immune system response which makes the body attack the lining of the intestines.

The disease usually appears before age thirty and can affect anyone. Those with a family history may be most susceptible. Smoking is a known risk factor.

Aggravating factors include stress, poor diet, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and aspirin.

Early symptoms usually develop gradually, but can appear suddenly. These include fatigue, loss of appetite, fever, mouth sores, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and blood in stool.

Untreated Crohn's disease can cause ulcers throughout the digestive tract as well as bowel obstruction, malnutrition, and deteriorating general health.

Diagnosis is made through blood test and stool sample test. Colonoscopy, CT scan, MRI, endoscopy, and/or enteroscopy may also be used.

Crohn's disease cannot be cured, but can be managed through reducing the inflammation. Antibiotics, corticosteroids, and immune system suppressors may be tried. Excellent nutrition, vitamin supplements, smoking cessation, and reduction in stress can be helpful.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, stomach bloating, loss of appetite, constipation, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps)

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome is commonly known as IBS. Normally, the muscles of the colon, or large intestine, contract and relax to push food along. It's thought that in IBS, the muscles randomly contract either too strongly or too weakly and therefore cause alternating bouts of diarrhea or constipation.

The exact cause is not known. Food allergy/intolerance; stress; hormonal imbalance; and infection or bacterial overgrowth in the colon may play a role, as well as an overly sensitive gastrointestinal nervous system.

Pre-menopausal women who suffer from depression or lead very stressful lives may be most susceptible.

Symptoms vary among individuals, and often come and go. These include abdominal pain and cramping; bloating; gas; diarrhea; and constipation. IBS is not associated with serious illness such as cancer, but symptoms may interfere with quality of life.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, and ruling out any other cause. Imaging may also be done.

Treatment begins with improved diet and stress management. Antibiotics, antidepressants, and other medications may be attempted.

Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids, or "piles," are swollen veins in the anus or rectum. They may be located inside the rectum (internal) or outside the body at the anus (external.)

The condition is caused by straining during bowel movements and/or from increased pressure during pregnancy and childbirth.

Hemorrhoids are a common occurrence, especially in older people. Pregnant women are susceptible, as is anyone who has chronic constipation or is obese.

Symptoms include discomfort, pain, pressure, and itching. There may be small amounts of bleeding during bowel movements, though some hemorrhoids cause no symptoms at all.

Severe pain can indicate a thrombosed hemorrhoid, meaning a clot has formed within it. This is not serious but the pain can be debilitating and requires treatment right away. Also, rectal bleeding can also be a sign of more serious diseases such as diverticulitis or cancer and should always be diagnosed by a medical provider.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination and sometimes through colonoscopy.

Treatment begins with good hygiene, cold compresses, and over-the-counter pain relievers. Surgery may be done for some cases.

Colonic neoplasm

Colonic neoplasm means "new tissue" growing in the colon, or large intestine. This neoplasm may be either benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancer.)

The exact cause of any cancer remains unknown. Risk factors seem to be:

  • Being over fifty years of age.
  • Family history of the disease.
  • A high-fat, low-fiber diet, typical in the modern world
  • Chronic inflammatory diseases of the colon such as Crohn's disease.
  • Smoking and alcohol use.
  • Diabetes, obesity, and inactivity.

The earliest symptoms are usually polyps, small growths within the colon which can be detected on colonoscopy and removed before they can become cancerous. Later symptoms may be unexplained fatigue; change in bowel habits; persistent abdominal discomfort such as gas or cramps; blood in stool; or rectal bleeding.

Diagnosis is made through colonoscopy and sometimes blood testing.

Treatment is done through surgery, which may be minor or extensive; and through chemotherapy with radiation therapy, usually done before and after surgery. Supportive care to keep the patient comfortable is also an important part of treatment.

Anal fissure

An anal fissure is a break, or tear, in the mucous membrane lining of the anus. The anus is the opening at the end of the digestive tract where stool leaves the body.

A fissure is caused primarily by constipation, which leads to straining to pass large hard stools; trauma caused by insertion of objects or by anal sex; and illnesses such as any type of inflammatory bowel disease or sexually transmitted disease.

Symptoms include pain and bleeding during and after a bowel movement; discomfort and difficulty with urination; and a visible tear, resembling a crack, in the anal tissue that may have a foul-smelling discharge.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination.

Treatment primarily involves relieving constipation, and the straining it causes, by adding fiber and more fluids to the diet; and easing anal irritation by soaking in a warm bath and gently cleansing the tissues of the anus. In some cases, medicated creams or suppositories may be prescribed.

Anal cancer

Anal cancer is a neoplasm, or tumor, growing in the tissues of the anus. The tumor may be malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous.)

Most anal cancers are linked to the human papilloma virus, or HPV. However, many people carry HPV and have no symptoms or illness of any kind.

Most susceptible are men who have sexual contact with men; women who have had cervical cancer; and anyone who has engaged in anal intercourse, had anal warts, or is HIV positive. Smoking and lowered immunity are also factors.

Symptoms include minor anal bleeding and itching, which may be attributed to hemorrhoids; pain or fullness in the anal region; and abnormal anal discharge.

It is important to see a medical provider about these symptoms so that if needed, treatment can begin as soon as possible.

Diagnosis is made through patient history; physical examination; anal swab; and biopsy. CT scan, ultrasound, or endoscopy of the anus may also be done.

Treatment involves some combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy depending on the needs of each individual patient.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: abdominal pain (stomach ache), stool changes, constipation, diarrhea, pain when passing stools

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Anal mucus discharge quiz

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When and how to treat anal mucus discharge

In the majority of cases, anal mucus discharge is transient (e.g. temporary and short-lived) and will resolve on its own. It is frequently caused by infections. Sometimes, you may experience other symptoms like abdominal cramps, nausea, or vomiting, or even small amounts of blood or mucus in the stool.

At-home treatments

If your anal mucus discharge is sudden and has never happened before, it is reasonable to assume it is from some sort of infection. Infections usually resolve in two weeks or less if you have a normal immune system. Staying hydrated, resting, and washing your hands are important treatments.

When to see a doctor

The following situations require medical care from your physician. Make an appointment promptly if you experience the following.

  • If you cannot stay hydrated or take in any nutrients: You may need to seek care at an emergency room or seek evaluation from your physician.
  • If the mucus or blood in stool gets worse or does not improve: Especially after a week to 10 days, or if it recurs in the absence of the food, you should seek evaluation for a more chronic cause of rectal discharge.
  • If your anal mucus discharge recurs or never resolves: In the absence of a possible infection, you should seek medical evaluation to determine if you have a chronic inflammatory condition of the bowel (e.g. Crohn Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, or rarely Celiac Disease) and to rule out cancer.

When it is an emergency

You should seek help without delay if you experience the following.

  • You have blood in your stool: Or if you have difficulty staying hydrated or drinking enough fluids to replace what you are losing during the day.
  • Signs of cancer or chronic bowel inflammation: Signs include night sweats, back pain, or fatigue.

Get a diagnosis and care plan

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FAQs about anal mucus discharge

Is anal mucus discharge normal?

Anal mucus discharge is not normal; however, it may resolve spontaneously on its own. Unless it is accompanied by fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, blood in the stool, or belly pain, it is likely not worrisome. Medical attention is necessary if it persists.

How long does anal mucus discharge usually last?

Anal mucus discharge is commonly caused by transient gastrointestinal illness. In healthy people, anal mucus discharge usually does not last longer than 10 days. If discharge lasts longer than 10 days, you may need to have your immune system and gastrointestinal system evaluated for other diseases.

What causes anal mucus discharge?

Inflammation triggers mucus production from cells called "goblet cells" in the intestine. It can be caused by eating something that causes your intestines to become inflamed, gut conditions, or systemic inflammation. See above for more details.

How can I recognize anal mucus discharge?

Anal mucus discharge is often recognized by mucus in the stool. Mucus looks like phlegm or snot and is often found by itself or mixed in with the stool. Additionally, you may notice a phlegm-like substance when wiping after defecating which you may recognize as mucus. It is important to recognize other signs that may be worrisome such as blood or even organisms like parasites within the mucus. If the mucus persists you should seek medical attention.

How is anal mucus discharge usually treated?

If your discharge is caused by a bacterium, parasite, or other infection, it can be treated with antibiotics or other medications. If the mucus is caused by some sort of inflammatory process, inflammation will be addressed directly. Diet restriction or potent anti-inflammatory medications may be necessary.

Hear what 3 others are saying
Pooping mucus onlyPosted October 26, 2021 by M.
I am having a normal poop mostly (Bristol stool chart 4). I go to washroom once or twice a day, but sometimes in the morning when I poop after pooping I have a feeling that I need to poop again. When I go, mucus (white and yellow) comes only and this persists only up to 4-5 pm. After that, all goes normal. I am having no diarrhea, no constipation, and had my blood test also done and all are normal. But when I fart the feeling of pooping goes away. I don't know what is happening with me. Is it IBD or IBS. I am having no stomach pain?
A little perturbedPosted September 25, 2021 by R.
I frequently have anal discharge of clear, sticky fluid, maybe just by itself. If I do have waste to discharge, then the fluid is mixed with the rest, often in a very loose stool. Other times everything is fairly normal. These conditions happen every day and are never resolved. I take medicine for acid reflux but don't usually take any type of medicine for IBS or other medicine like Tums. I don't have much mucous that is not clear liquid. Sometimes it comes out as a stream, often with a lot of force.
Yellow mucus from rectumPosted May 2, 2021 by C.
I have constipation at times, and I’ve had an intestinal obstruction a while ago. At times I’ll have diarrhea. I do drink alcohol. I’ve seen mucus in my stool before. I went to wipe my bottom and it was just all yellow mucus and a lot of it but no stool, no blood. Could alcohol be inflaming my intestines and causing this? It was very shocking. It was quite a large amount of yellow mucus but that was all.
Dr. Rothschild has been a faculty member at Brigham and Women’s Hospital where he is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He currently practices as a hospitalist at Newton Wellesley Hospital. In 1978, Dr. Rothschild received his MD at the Medical College of Wisconsin and trained in internal medicine followed by a fellowship in critical care medicine. He also received an MP...
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References

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