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Rectal prolapse

Anorectal pain

A rectal prolapse is a rare condition in which a part of your rectum bulges out from the anus, as if it had turned inside out.

What is a rectal prolapse?

Your rectum is where faeces is stored, at the bottom of the large intestine.

If your rectum loses its internal fixation and turns itself inside out, you get a rectal prolapse.

There are three degrees of prolapse: partial prolapse, full-thickness prolapse and internal prolapse.

What are the symptoms of a rectal prolapse?

The clearest symptom of a rectal prolapse is a lump or swelling from your anus. You may at first only notice this after a bowel movement, and it can go away.

However, it can happen more often, and then become permanent.

Other symptoms of a rectal prolapse include:

  • Mucus or blood from your rectum
  • Finding it hard to maintain control of your bowel movements
  • Pain or discomfort in your rectal area

What causes a rectal prolapse?

It’s not fully understood why you may get rectal prolapse, but some risk factors and potential causes include:

  • Straining when on the toilet or constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Coughing a lot
  • Certain neurological conditions – including spinal tumours, multiple sclerosis, lumbar disc disease
  • Certain genetic conditions which affect the strength of body tissues and fixations

How is a rectal prolapse diagnosed?

If you do feel discomfort from what you think is rectal prolapse, see your doctor. To make a diagnosis, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and do a physical assessment, including a rectal assessment.

If you doctor thinks you have a rectal prolapse, they will refer you to a specialist surgeon.

The surgeon may suggest one (or more) of the following tests: colonoscopy, proctoscopy, rigid proctosigmoidoscopy, anal manometry or an endoanal ultrasound.

How is a rectal prolapse treated?

The treatment you’re offered will depend on your overall health and the type of prolapse you have. In some cases, your doctor may be able to gently push your prolapse back in, and show you how to do this.

Your doctor may recommend some (or all) of the following:

  • Drinking lots of water
  • Eating high-fibre foods (if constipation or diarrhoea has caused your rectal prolapse)
  • Barrier creams for the anus, to reduce skin irritation caused by the prolapse
  • Exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles
  • Bulking laxatives

If the above does not work, you may need surgery (either abdominal or perineal surgery) and your doctor can advise you on the surgery that’s right for you.

If you are unsure what treatment you should go for, or the above simple treatments do not work for you, our team of expert specialists are here to help.

This content has been checked and approved by Professor Richard Cohen

Professor Richard Cohen  ›

Professor Richard Cohen is a Colorectal Consultant at King Edward VII’s Hospital.

Find your specialist in rectal prolapse at King Edward VII's Hospital

If you suspect you have rectal prolapse and you’re seeking an expert opinion, you can find the UK’s leading colorectal specialists here at King Edward VII’s Hospital. Our consultants are hand-picked for you, making it easy to access the best possible care.

Professor Richard Cohen  ›
Special interests include:
Colorectal surgery (+ 11) more
Mr James Kinross  ›
Special interests include:
Colorectal cancer (+ 7) more
Mr Alexander Von Roon  ›
Special interests include:
Colorectal cancer (+ 30) more

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