Rectal Prolapse

What is Rectal Prolapse?

A Rectal Prolapse occurs when the rectal portion of the intestines protrudes through the anal opening. It affects more children and older women than men. Just a very small portion may come out while straining to pass a bowel movement, but it can come out entirely and stay outside of the body.

A rectal prolapse can also fold up within itself and remain internal. When the problem is severe it can cause fecal incontinence and other serious problems. The causes vary in children and adults.

Rectal prolapse in children may be caused by:

Rectal prolapse in adults may be caused by:

  • Constipation and straining during bowel movements
  • Damage caused by childbirth
  • Damage from prior surgeries
  • Weakened pelvic floor muscles

What are the Symptoms of Rectal Prolapse?

In the earliest stages or when the condition is mild, symptoms may include:

  • Leakage of fecal matter
  • Leakage of blood or fecal mucous

When the condition is severe, symptoms may also include:

  • Full feeling in the rectum
  • Feeling of bowel movement urgency
  • Passing numerous unusually small stools
  • Sensation of having an impassable bowel movement
  • Anal bleeding, itchiness, pain, and discomfort
  • Intestines protruding from the anus (bright red tissue)

How is Rectal Prolapse Treated?

When children have a minor rectal prolapse it usually goes away with stool softener and/or dietary changes. However, an underlying condition could be to blame. The child should have a physical exam. Sometimes an injection of medication or surgery may become necessary.

Minor rectal prolapses in adults can be corrected by gently pushing the tissue back into the anus. Dietary changes may be necessary to avoid constipation. Other adult treatment options may include:

  • Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor
  • Stool softener to limit straining during bowel movements
  • Surgery

When a rectal prolapse is left untreated the rectum could become severely damaged and fecal incontinence could greatly worsen.

Last Reviewed:
October 09, 2016
Last Updated:
August 22, 2017