Rectal prolapse occurs mostly in women and happens when part of the large intestine falls through the anus. Rectal prolapse can happen in men, but it is not as common. The condition leads to fecal incontinence which can be very embarrassing. There are three different types of rectal prolapse, and they range from mild to severe. In the beginning stages, rectal prolapse can be treated fairly easily. The treatment only works for a short time because rectal prolapse tends to get worse over time. At that point surgery is necessary to cure the problem.
The large intestine, also known as the colon has different sections. At one end it is connected to the end of the small intestine and at the other end it exits the body. The colon rests in the abdomen, so a lot of abdominal pain is due to colon issues. The four parts of the colon describe the location of the colon. The colon is six feet long so for it to fit properly inside the abdomen, it has to be curved. The first part of the colon is the ascending colon. It then connects to the transverse colon, and then the descending colon. The last part of the colon is called the sigmoid colon. The sigmoid colon is the part where the colon curves right before it reach the rectum and anus. We tend to separate the colon from the rectum and anus, but both the rectum and anus are extensions of the colon. When the rectum comes out of place, it slips through the anus.
Rectal prolapse may be internal, partial, or complete. Internal rectal prolapse happens when part of the colon slides into or over another part of the colon. There is no release of the rectum through the anus. This type of prolapse happens more so in children rather than adults. If it happens in adults, it may be because of polyps or tumors. Partial prolapse occurs when the mucous membrane lining of the rectum slides out of place. Unlike internal prolapse, part of that membrane sticks out of the anus. Partial prolapse is common among infants. Complete prolapse is where the entire wall of the rectum slides out of place and slips out the anus. Sometimes the tissues will go back in place, but as time goes on, it has to be surgically repaired.
Complete prolapse happens more often in adults. Symptoms of rectal prolapse include leakage of the stool as well as mucus and blood. Sometimes complete prolapse makes it difficult to control your bowel. When there is partial prolapse, the mucous membrane slips out which makes it visible from the outside. There are pain and itching with rectal prolapse as well. The rectal area will be red and irritated. You may feel as if you have to go to the bathroom even if you don’t. There is not just one cause of rectal prolapse. There are several different causes.
Rectal prolapse is something that can be caused by straining too much during bowel movements. The pressure of pushing and straining will cause the rectum to slip down the anus. Infections in the colon may also cause rectal prolapse. Women are prone to rectal prolapse because of childbirth. The straining and pushing during childbirth can cause problems. When you have surgery in the abdominal cavity, you are also susceptible to rectal prolapse. As you age, the muscles in the rectum gradually weaken. Sometimes rectal prolapse is just a part of aging.
When to see your doctor
If you think you are suffering from rectal prolapse, you should see a doctor. The doctor will do a visual examination first. If they can see the rectum or the membrane coming out of the anal cavity that is a sure sign of rectal prolapse. They will do a test to see how strong the muscles in the anus are, the sphincter muscles specifically. A colonoscopy or other visual tests are done to look for tumors and polyps inside the colon. They also check for ulcers, fistulas, and abscesses. Once a diagnosis is made, treatment is available. The first step in treatment includes pushing the prolapse back into place. Diet changes are also helpful in therapy. Drinking water and eating a high fiber diet helps decrease the chances of rectal prolapse from constipation. Physical therapy is also a good tool to help strengthen the muscles in your pelvis which will also help prevent prolapse. Surgery is usually the last resort when nothing else works. The doctor will either remove part of the intestine or attach the rectum to muscles in the pelvis or spine.
Rectal prolapse may be embarrassing but in most cases, it can be avoided. You should be very careful when using the bathroom. Make sure you are not straining a lot. The more you strain, the more you put yourself at risk for rectal prolapse. Having a good diet is also very helpful in avoiding rectal prolapse. If you are suffering from this condition, talk with a physician and get the treatment you need right away.
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