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Rectal Prolapse: An Overview

Rectal prolapse occurs when the rectum – the bottom part of the large intestine – slides out of its normal position, sometimes protruding from the anus. This condition is caused when the tissue that holds the rectum in place is stretched excessively. When this happens, the normal bend of the rectum straightens, which may cause people with rectal prolapse to have difficulty controlling bowel movements.

Types of Rectal Prolapse

You could experience rectal prolapse if you strain 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.

What Causes Rectal Prolapse?

There are several factors that may cause 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

Typical Symptoms

Common symptoms of rectal prolapse are:

  • Fecal incontinence
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Rectal mucous discharge
  • A constant need to have a bowel movement
  • Pain and anal itching
  • The appearance of a reddish bulge outside of the anus
  • Feeling like you're sitting on a ball after defecating

Treating Rectal Prolapse

Most common in adults over 40 years old and in children, rectal prolapse often goes away on its own. It 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.

If you have rectal prolapse, you can have your condition evaluated and treated at Tampa General Hospital’s Endoscopy Center. Tampa General Hospital is recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the nation's best hospitals and highest ranked in Florida for Gastroenterology & GI Surgery. Plus, because our multidisciplinary team includes gastroenterologists, surgeons, physicians and other medical specialists, we offer 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.