• What is rectal prolapse?

    Rectal prolapse is an ailment in which the rectum drops downwards and turns inside out. The rectum, which is the lower end of the colon located just above the anus, remains inside the body in the early stage. As the condition worsens, it may protrude out through the anus. The anal muscles are often weak, and this may result in leakage of stool or mucous.

    Rectal prolapse may have similar symptoms as haemorroids/piles (e.g. bleeding and/or a lump that protrudes from the anus). However, rectal prolapse concerns a part of the intestines that is higher up within the body, while haemorrhoids develop near the anus. This condition is more common in women than men.

  • What causes rectal prolapse?

    A number of factors lead to the development of rectal prolapse. Repeated straining during defaecation and stresses during childbirth play a role in causing rectal prolapse. Weakening of the tissue supporting the rectum, and weakening of the muscles of the anus with age also play a role. Sometimes, neurological problems (e.g. spinal cord injury or spinal cord disease) can lead to prolapse. However, no single cause can be identified in most cases.

  • What are the symptoms?

    Diagnosis of the condition can be done by your doctor. Patients may be asked to “strain” as if having a bowel movement or to sit on the commode to “strain”. This is to demonstrate the prolapse for examination.

    An x-ray examination may be needed to diagnose earlier stages of rectal prolapse. Images are taken while the patient is having a bowel movement. The doctor will decide on the necessity and type of surgery for the patient with the x-rays.

    A test that measures the strength of the muscles of the anus (called anorectal manometry) may also be used.

  • How is rectal prolapse treated?

    Once rectal prolapse has occurred, treating the constipation and straining may not be sufficient. Different types of surgery are available for the condition and your doctor will help you decide which method is most suited for you.

    The success of the surgery depends on a few factors, including the type of surgery, the stage of the prolapse, the strength of the anal muscles prior to the operation, and the overall health of the patient. With the appropriate procedure, a large majority of patients are completely relieved of symptoms, or experience notable improvements.

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