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What Is Rectal Prolapse?

Rectal prolapse is the result of a weakened rectum.
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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 24 October 2014
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Rectal prolapse is a condition in which the rectum sticks out of the body through the anus. This may occur when the surrounding muscles and ligaments become too weak to support the rectum. Some people may have a minor form of rectal prolapse in which the rectum protrudes at some times but then retracts again, depending on what the patient is doing. The amount of prolapse may vary as well. An individual may have a small amount of rectal protrusion, or a large section of the rectum may be visible outside the body.

The rectum is the bottom portion of a person's large intestine. When it's in the appropriate position, it’s above the anus and attached to the pelvis. When the ligaments and muscles that usually hold it in place fail to adequately do their job, the result can be rectal prolapse. In the earliest stages of rectal prolapse, the rectum's attachment may become inadequate, but it may not protrude from the body all of the time. Eventually, if left untreated, it may protrude from the anus permanently.

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Fortunately, rectal prolapse is not a common condition. When it does occur, it is more likely to affect elderly people and small children. There are many factors that may contribute to its development, including extended periods of straining, constipation, and diarrhea; physical stress from pregnancy and childbirth may contribute to its development as well. Additionally, people who have cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), multiple sclerosis, or paralysis may be more likely to experience it. Even conditions such as pinworms and whooping cough may be associated with rectal prolapse.

Treatment for this condition may include a combination of self-care and medical care. At home, stools softeners may be used to reduce constipation and alleviate straining. Some doctors may recommend using bindings on children in order to keep the buttocks together when a child is not having a bowel movement. This may help encourage the rectum to heal. Often, treatment also includes steps to treat the underlying condition that caused the prolapse. In many cases, however, such steps are not enough, and surgery is necessary.

A person may attempt to prevent rectal prolapse by consuming a diet that is high in fiber. Drinking a lot of fluids may help as well. Additionally, avoiding long-term constipation, diarrhea, and straining may prove effective. Exercise may also help, as it can encourage a normal bowel movement process.

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ElizaBennett
Post 2

@Kat919 - It seems like it would. It seems like both hemorrhoids and rectal prolapse can be considered diseases of affluence, or at least lifestyle diseases. We have these fancy toilets and unnatural diets that make it hard to go to the bathroom, and problems naturally result. Even rectal prolapse as a result of straining in childbirth is probably related to the unnatural way childbirth tends to be practiced in this country. (Hint: You're not supposed to try to push out a baby while lying on your back.)

Kat919
Post 1

My mother had to have surgery for a vaginal prolapse after her fifth child was born. Not sure which is worse!

I've read that hemorrhoids could be almost completely prevented in this culture if we stopped foolishly sitting down to have bowel movements and started squatting instead (as even the highest classes still do in Japan and many other cultures).

I wonder if that would also prevent rectal prolapse. As for me, I'm going to keep using the toilet the way I've always done!

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