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Rectal Prolapse: An Overview

Rectal prolapse occurs when the rectum – the terminal end of the large intestine – slides out of its normal position, sometimes protruding from the anus. This condition is the result of excessive stretching of the tissue that holds the rectum in place. When this happens, the normal bend of the rectum straightens, which may cause people with rectal prolapse to experience difficulty controlling bowel movements.

A prolapse usually occurs when someone is straining to defecate, and it could be any of three types of prolapse – partial, complete, or internal. A partial prolapse is when the lining of the rectum slides out of place and partially protrudes from the anus. A complete prolapse happens when the entire wall of the rectum slips out of position and protrudes from the anus. An internal prolapse is when the rectum, or a part of the large intestine, slides over another part of the rectum.

There are several factors that may lead to someone developing a rectal prolapse, including:

  • A long history of straining during bowel movements
  • Chronic constipation
  • Weak pelvic floor muscles
  • Nerve damage due to injuries, surgeries, or pregnancy
  • Malnutrition

Common symptoms of rectal prolapse are fecal incontinence, rectal bleeding, or rectal mucous discharge. Other people with the condition may experience a constant need to have a bowel movement. Symptoms of prolapse also include pain and anal itching, and the appearance of a reddish bulge outside of the anus is a clear indication of a prolapse.

Most common in older adults and children, rectal prolapse often goes away on its own, and can be treated at home through increased water intake and a change in diet that includes more fruit, vegetables, and fibrous foods. But if a person’s condition does not improve, surgery may be required. One type of surgery is laparoscopic rectopexy.

People suffering from this ailment can have their condition evaluated and treated at Tampa General Hospital’s Endoscopy Center. Named one of America’s Best Hospitals for Gastroenterology & GI Surgery by U.S. News & World Report in 2019-20, Tampa General provides highly personalized care and a vast array of treatment options for rectal prolapse.

To find a gastroenterologist, click here to access the hospital’s Physician Finder, or call us at 1-800-833-3267.