What to Do If You Experience a Rectal Prolapse

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Rectal prolapse is a condition in which there is a protusion of the rectum out through the anus. This article will answer some basic questions about the condition.

Who Is Likely to Experience a Rectal Prolapse?

Although rectal prolapse can affect anyone, it is most common in young children and people over the age of 50. In adults, women are overwhelmingly more likely to experience prolapse, with estimates ranging from 60 to 90 percent of all cases. The risk of rectal prolapse for men remains steady over time, while the risk increases for women as they get older. There is no such gender disparity in childhood cases.


Rectal prolapse may develop and worsen over time. The predominant symptom is the sensation of a lump pushing through the anus during a bowel movement. In the early stages, the prolapse will subside on its own. As the condition worsens, the prolapse needs to be manually dealt with or will not recede at all. The prolapse may also be triggered by coughing or standing.

Additional symptoms include:

If you suspect that you have a rectal prolapse, make an appointment with your doctor. They will determine if your symptoms are caused by a rectal prolapse or a prolapsed internal hemorrhoid.


There are a wide variety of factors that may contribute to the development of a rectal prolapse. Rectal prolapses may result from obesity, poor bowel habits or chronic constipation, but also may be due to abnormalities in the structure and muscles and ligaments of the anus, rectum and pelvic floor. Pregnancy and injury during childbirth are also possible causes.


The primary treatment for rectal prolapse is surgery. There are numerous types of procedures available; your doctor will determine which is right for you. Factors to be considered are your age, your health status, and whether or not constipation is a chronic problem. The goal of surgery is to repair the prolapse with an eye toward preventing a reoccurrence of the problem.

After surgery, associated symptoms should be relieved; most notably, for most people, fecal incontinence is no longer a problem.

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Article Sources

  • Goldstein, S. & Maxwell, P. "Rectal Prolapse" Clinics in Colon and Rectal Surgery 2011 24:39-45.
  • O'Brien, D. "Rectal Prolapse" Clinics in Colon and Rectal Surgery 2007 20:125-132.
  • Safar, B. & Sands, D. "Abdominal Approaches for Rectal Prolapse" Clinics in Colon and Rectal Surgery 2008 21:94-99.