Stools that are pale, or clay- or putty-colored may result from problems in the biliary system (the drainage system of the gallbladder, liver, and pancreas).
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 due to the buildup of bile chemicals in the body.
Possible causes for clay-colored stools include:
There may be other causes not listed here.
Call your health care provider if your stools vary from the normal brown color.
The doctor will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms. Questions may include:
Tests that may be done include:
Berk PD, Korenblat KM. Approach to the patient with jaundice or abnormal liver test results. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 150.
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