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Rectal prolapse: what is it, symptoms, and causes

Goficure - Blog Page - Rectal prolapse: what is it, symptoms, and causes (Blog Post) Last Updated March 14, 2024


A rectal prolapse is a condition where the rectum pushes out of the anus. It is a rare condition that mostly affects adults, especially women over 50. It can also occur in children suffering from cystic fibrosis or chronic diarrhea.

Rectal prolapse is not a medical emergency but can cause serious discomfort and even need surgery if not treated on time.

Rectal prolapse can be differentiated into three main types:

Type 1 – internal prolapse

The rectum has started to prolapse but is internal and does not stick out of the anus. Type 1 or internal prolapse is more common in children.

Type 2 – partial/mucosal prolapse

The inner mucosal lining of the rectum protrudes out of the anus while straining during defecation. It is found more in children under the age of two.

Type 3 – complete prolapse

At the initial stage, part of the rectal wall sticks out of the anus mostly during bowel movements. But at later stages, it can occur even while standing or walking or may stay protruded out of the anus at all times.

What is rectal prolapse – definition

A rectum is part of the large intestine which helps the poop to exit the body through the anal canal. When there is an urge to defecate, the rectal wall muscles are triggered to move the poop out of the anus.

In a rectal prolapse, the rectum slips out of the anus, sometimes it is protruded out of the body.

Rectal prolapse should not be confused with hemorrhoids which are swollen veins that develop around the anus or the rectum.

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Rectal prolapse vs hemorrhoids – the difference

Are you suffering from hemorrhoids or do you have rectal prolapse? Though both these conditions share some similar symptoms such as rectal bleeding, mucus discharge, constipation, perianal discomfort, itching, etc., they are completely different conditions and their treatment is also different.

Difference between rectal prolapse and hemorrhoids:

Hemorrhoids are inflamed, dilated veins that develop around the anal or rectal area. Internal hemorrhoids can sometimes feel like a prolapse as they bulge and protrude outwards.

Rectal prolapse on the other hand occurs when the rectum loses its attachment and slides out of the anus.


What are the symptoms of rectal prolapse?

Rectal prolapse symptoms vary depending on the stage or type of the condition. The symptoms develop slowly as the condition worsens.

At the initial stage, you may notice a feeling of a bulge in the anus as if something is slipping out through the anus.

The symptom is more noticeable during defecation as the rectum starts to protrude out. You may have an abnormal feeling that something has dropped out of the anus.

Symptoms of rectal prolapse include:

  • A part of the rectum protrudes out which can be pushed back easily
  • A noticeable bulge or red mass outside the anal opening
  • At later stages, the rectum hangs out during normal physical activities like walking or sitting
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Trouble having solid bowel movements or passing gas
  • Loose stools
  • Constipation
  • Fecal incontinence (inability to control bowel movements)

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What causes rectal prolapse?

Rectal prolapse causes have been associated with several risk factors such as:

  • Long-term constipation
  • History of excessive straining during bowel movements
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Cystic fibrosis that causes stomach problems
  • Weakened anal sphincter muscles due to childbirth, pregnancy, or old age
  • Nerve damage that controls the movements of rectal and anal muscles due to some injury, vaginal childbirth, anal sphincter paralysis, or surgery
  • Prior trauma or injury of the anal area or lower back
  • Age-related weak pelvic floor muscles
  • Parasitic infection of the intestines
  • Genetics or prior family history of rectal prolapse

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Final words

Treatment for rectal prolapse depends on the age and the severity of the condition. Delaying proper diagnosis and treatment can only worsen the condition. For mild rectal prolapse, lifestyle changes like eating a high-fiber diet, drinking lots of fluids, exercising, and using stool softeners can help. Surgery to repair the rectum is recommended if the other treatments are ineffective.

  • Start with a high-fiber diet
  • Use stool softeners or laxatives
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Strain during bowel movements
  • Lift heavy loads
  • Delay consultations with your doctor

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