What is rectal prolapse?

Rectal prolapse happens when a portion of or all of the rectum’s wall slides out of place.

Rectal prolapse is most common in children and older adults, particularly women. In children, it can be found with cystic fibrosis and whipworm (trichuriasis). In adults, it is usually found with constipation. It is also more common in people with autism, psychiatric disorders and intellectual disability.

Rectal prolapse symptoms

The main symptom is a reddish-colored mass sticking out from the anus, especially following a bowel movement. This mass is actually the inner lining of the rectum and may bleed slightly and be uncomfortable and painful.

If untreated, rectal prolapse could lead to serious complications, such as leaking stool that gets worse or a damaged rectum.

Rectal prolapse diagnosis

The health care provider will perform a physical exam, which may include a rectal exam. Tests can help determine the underlying cause.

Rectal prolapse treatment

Call your health care provider if a rectal prolapse occurs. In some cases, the prolapse can be treated at home.

With rectal prolapse, the rectum must be pushed back inside manually. A soft, warm, wet cloth is used to apply gentle pressure to the mass to push it back through the anal opening. The affected person should be lying down on his or her side in a knee-chest position before applying pressure to allow gravity to help return the prolapse. In children, treating the underlying condition usually solves the problem. In adults, the only cure for rectal prolapse is an operation.

Telehealth visits

During this time of public health concern, some appointments for colorectal care may take place via telehealth wherever possible and appropriate. You can also request a telehealth or video visit by contacting your provider. For all in-person visits, you can feel confident that our locations are safe. We've taken significant measures to minimize the risk of the spread of COVID-19 and ensure that our patients are protected. Learn more by visiting our patient safety page.

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