Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
Rectal prolapse is a condition in which the rectum partially or completely sticks out through the anus.
What is going on in the body?
The rectum is the lowest part of the bowel. It is located just above the anus, which is the opening to the outside of the body. In prolapse, the rectum pushes through the anus.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
The exact cause is rarely clear. The following conditions increase the risk of rectal prolapse:
cystic fibrosis, an inherited disease that affects the lungs and gut
chronic constipation or straining during bowel movements
certain parasite infections of the bowel
injury to the bowel, which may be from surgery
Rectal prolapse is more common in young children or elderly individuals than in other age groups. It is more common in women than in men.
Symptoms & Signs
What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?
Rectal prolapse may cause the following symptoms:
discomfort in the lower abdomen
bowel incontinence, or involuntary loss of stool
excessive straining during bowel movements
bleeding from the anus
a feeling of incomplete bowel movements
Diagnosis & Tests
How is the condition diagnosed?
A medical history and physical exam are usually used. Further tests, such as x-rays, may be used to look for the cause.
Prevention & Expectations
What can be done to prevent the condition?
In general, rectal prolapse cannot be prevented. Treatment of chronic constipation may help avoid prolapse from this cause.
What are the long-term effects of the condition?
If the prolapse is not repaired with surgery, complications may occur. These include bleeding, open sores on the lining of the rectum, and infection. Bowel incontinence may be permanent, even after treatment.
What are the risks to others?
There are no risks to others.
Treatment & Monitoring
What are the treatments for the condition?
Treatment varies according to the underlying cause. Sometimes eliminating the cause is the only treatment necessary. Surgery is recommended to repair the prolapse and prevent complications.
What are the side effects of the treatments?
All surgery carries a risk of bleeding, infection, and allergic reactions to the anesthesia.
What happens after treatment for the condition?
After recovery, a person can generally return to normal activities. Bowel incontinence often improves after surgery, but may be permanent.
How is the condition monitored?
Follow-up visits are needed until the person has recovered from surgery. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.