Rectal prolapse occurs when the intestine falls through the rectum at the end of the digestive tract. In severe cases, it can cause fecal incontinence. It can affect people of all ages but is more likely to affect young children and the elderly. It can sometimes be treated with medication, but in most cases, it requires surgery. It can be a painful condition.
There are several factors that can cause rectal prolapse. Some of the most common causes include:
The symptoms of rectal prolapse can vary by individual. Some people only have a slight prolapse, while others have a full prolapse, which can be severe. Some people have pain, and others don’t even know they have a prolapse until they see it or feel it while wiping or bathing. The most common symptoms of rectal prolapse include:
Doctors can diagnose rectal prolapse with a physical exam. They may do a rectal exam and even ask the patient to give a stool sample. After a bowel movement, a doctor may ask to see the prolapse. Other tests can also be conducted if there are complications or if the doctor believes there may be an underlying cause of the prolapse. Some of these tests include:
Treatment for a rectal prolapse can vary, and the severity of the prolapse can be a big factor in choosing the right treatment. For prolapses that aren’t serious, the doctor may push the tissue back inside and prescribe stool softeners to prevent it from coming back out. The only other option is surgery. The portion of the intestine that has prolapsed can be removed, and the remaining tissue may be stitched to prevent future prolapses. Diet changes and exercise can also help reduce the risk of future prolapse and help patients recover faster from surgery.
Once a person has received treatment for the rectal prolapse, it can take three to five days for the body to heal. Most patients stay in the hospital during this time. Complete recovery can take up to three months. Once a person has suffered a rectal prolapse, they are at risk for future complications. Even after surgery, new rectal prolapses are possible. Patients must be careful not to strain while having bowel movements or while lifting heavy objects.
Many patients also have to take stool softeners throughout their lives to prevent straining and constipation, which can put them at risk for prolapse. Diet changes and exercise are also essential to avoid future complications.