Rectal Prolapse: Risks, Symptoms and Treatment

Embarrassing and alarming are two words that could describe rectal prolapse. Not only is it shocking to have a part of your body that should be inside making its way outside, but other alarming symptoms can include uncontrollable gas, fecal incontinence and daily discomfort.

Rectal prolapse can seem like an urgent issue, but in many cases, you can alleviate symptoms with medication and diet. Eventually, corrective surgery may be needed.

What is Rectal Prolapse?

The rectum is the section of the digestive tract between the large intestine and the anus.
Rectal prolapse is when the rectum loses its attachments to structures inside the body. The rectum telescopes, or turns inside out, and protrudes from the anus. In its early stages, it may appear as a red bulge coming out of the anus during or after bowel movements.

Rectal prolapse can involve the entire rectum or just a portion of it. In some cases, the rectum collapses inside the body but does not protrude from the anus, causing an internal prolapse.
While rectal prolapse is alarming and uncomfortable, it is usually not a cause for panic.

Who is at Risk for Rectal Prolapse?

Rectal prolapse is not a common issue, affecting just 2.5 of every 100,000 people. Women over age 50 are six times more likely than men to develop this condition. About 65 percent of the women affected by rectal prolapse have gone through at least one pregnancy. Adults with a long-term history of constipation are more likely to experience rectal prolapse.

What are the Symptoms of Rectal Prolapse?

The first sign of rectal prolapse is a feeling that something is not quite right during a bowel movement, although it may not be painful. You may notice a red bulge protruding from the anus. If the rectum protrudes following a bowel movement and does not retract, you may feel as though you are sitting on a ball.

Early Stages

In the early stages of prolapse, the rectum may only protrude during or after bowel movements or other activities that put a strain or pressure on the pelvic floor. It often retracts on its own. As the condition progresses, the rectum can spontaneously protrude at any time and needs to be manually pushed back inside through the anus.

Other Symptoms

Because the anal sphincter is compromised, it becomes more difficult to control the expulsion of fecal matter and gas. Fecal incontinence, which can be a leakage of mucus, blood, or stool, occurs in 50 to 75 percent of rectal prolapse cases.

Other symptoms include anal pain, rectal pain and bleeding. Patients and even doctors can confuse the early signs of rectal prolapse with hemorrhoids.

What Causes Rectal Prolapse?

Although some women may blame vaginal deliveries, many conditions can contribute to rectal prolapse.

  • Chronic constipation
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Straining during bowel movements
  • Weakened pelvic floor
  • Age
  • Weakened anal sphincter
  • Injury to the anal or pelvic areas
  • Nerve damage caused by pregnancy, difficult vaginal childbirth, anal sphincter paralysis, spinal injury, back surgery or pelvic surgery
  • Chronic diseases such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Parasitical infections such as pinworms or whipworms

What are the Treatments for Rectal Prolapse?

Treatment options for the early stages of rectal prolapse include dietary changes, stool softeners, suppositories or other medications. If you have been experiencing constipation, forced pushing can aggravate a rectal prolapse. It’s important to follow a prescribed diet, which will typically include more fiber and increasing fluid intake throughout the day. Eventually, corrective surgery, like minimally invasive ventral rectopexy, may be needed.

Know Your Options

Rectal prolapse is a condition that requires care to prevent symptoms from worsening and creating a threat to digestive processes and overall health. At Coyle Institute, Dr. Coyle and his staff have experience in treating and relieving rectal prolapse, and we know how sensitive the issue can be for the women suffering from this condition. Don’t be embarrassed. Schedule your consultation today and learn about your treatment options.