Rectal Prolapse

What is rectal prolapse?

Rectal prolapse describes a condition where the wall of the rectum turns itself inside out and protrudes through the anus. This becomes visible outside the body as a red to pink, projection from the anus. This condition occurs in both sexes, but is more common in women than men.

Why does it occur?

Several factors are thought to contribute to the development of rectal prolapse. These include:

  • Lifelong straining to have bowel movements due to chronic constipation
  • Weakening of the ligaments that support the rectum which can occur with childbirth and normal aging
  • Neurological disorders such as spinal cord disease or injury
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Malnutrition

What are the symptoms of rectal prolapse?

The symptoms of rectal prolapse include:

  • Unexpected release of mucus, stool, or blood from the anus
  • A feeling of having full bowels and an urgent need to have a bowel movement.
  • Passage of multiple small stools.
  • The feeling of not being able to empty the bowels completely.
  • An inability to control bowel movements (incontinence) that becomes worse over time.
  • Anal pain, itching, irritation, and bleeding.
  • Bright red tissue that protrudes from the anus

How is rectal prolapse diagnosed?

Your doctor can diagnose rectal prolapse by asking questions about your symptoms and by doing a thorough physical exam. To demonstrate the prolapse you may be asked to “strain” as if having a bowel movement. In some cases, however, the prolapse may not be evident externally and special tests may be required. One such test is defecography, which is a series of X-rays (like a motion picture) to evaluate the rectum and anal sphincter during a bowel movement.

How is rectal prolapse treated?

Rectal prolapse always requires surgical correction. Various surgical options exist depending on state of disease and state of patient.

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