Rectal Prolapse

Protrusion of the lining of the rectum outside the anus

  • Most common in young children and in elderly people
  • More common in males
  • A low-fibre diet is a risk factor
  • Genetics is not a significant factor

Rectal prolapse is an uncommon condition in which the lining of the rectum protrudes through the anus. It is usually associated with a low-fibre diet and constipation. The condition is more common in males and in elderly people and may be a recurrent problem in people who have weak pelvic floor muscles. In addition, rectal prolapse may sometimes occur temporarily in very young children during toilet training.

What are the symptoms?

If you have a rectal prolapse, you may experience symptoms after straining to defecate. These include:

  • Bleeding and discharge of mucus from the anus.

  • Pain or discomfort on defecation.

  • The sensation of a lump protruding from the anus.

If the prolapse is large, there may also be some faecal incontinence.

What might be done?

Your doctor may examine the prolapse with a gloved finger and gently push the rectum back into place. Further treatment is used to relieve the underlying cause, such as a high-fibre diet to relieve constipation. If the prolapse recurs and you have persistent constipation, your doctor may arrange for tests, such as colonoscopy or contrast X-rays, to look for an underlying disease, such as colorectal cancer.

In children, rectal prolapse will usually disappear when measures are taken to prevent constipation. Elderly people may require surgery to fix the rectum in position permanently.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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