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What Causes Rectal Prolapse?

You’re having a bowel movement and something feels “off.” Even after you’re finished, you can still feel something protruding from your anus. You may even feel it, and see it, long after your trip to the bathroom.

Rectal prolapse is a condition in which the lowest segment of your colon — known as the rectum — loses tone and collapses so that it falls out of your anus, turning inside out. If you have external rectal prolapse, your rectum may extend:

You could also have internal rectal prolapse, in which your rectum drops, but doesn’t push through the anus. Even though rectal prolapse isn’t immediately dangerous or life-threatening, if you don’t repair a prolapsed rectum, you’re at risk for serious complications, including fecal incontinence.

The caring and expert team at Colon and Rectal Surgeons of Greater Hartford surgically repairs rectal prolapse at their Bloomfield, South Windsor, and Plainville, Connecticut offices. If you’re wondering why you developed rectal prolapse and how you can prevent its recurrence after you repair it, here are a few reasons and risk factors.

You’re a woman

Women over the age of 50 are six times more likely than men to develop rectal prolapse. As women age and produce less estrogen, their skin and muscles lose tone, including the muscles in the genitourinary tract. 

Postmenopausal women are already at risk for pelvic floor prolapse, in which the bladder and other genitourinary organs collapse and drop down from their normal positions. Pregnancy and childbirth can further stress and damage genitourinary organs, including the rectum. 

If you’re a postmenopausal woman, after your rectal prolapse correction surgery, you may want to talk to your doctor about hormone replacement therapy to raise your levels of estrogen. You could also benefit from physical therapy (PT) that concentrates on your pelvic floor muscles. 

Your pelvic floor muscles are weak

Both women and men may develop weak pelvic floor muscles as they age. Symptoms of a weak pelvic floor include urinary incontinence. Your doctor may recommend PT to help you strengthen and tone your pelvic floor.

You suffer from chronic constipation or diarrhea

Straining from constipation and suffering the irritation and inflammation associated with diarrhea can both increase your risk for rectal prolapse. According to the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons, up to about 67% of patients with rectal prolapse suffer from constipation, while another 15% have diarrhea. 

After our expert surgeons repair your rectal prolapse, you may benefit from a whole-foods, anti-inflammatory diet and adequate hydration. You might also wish to be tested for food allergies and sensitivities that could be at the root of your diarrhea.

In addition, our doctors evaluate you for inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, as well as irritable bowel syndrome. We may prescribe lifestyle changes and medications to help you manage symptoms.

You have damaged nerves or muscles

If you were hurt in an auto or other type of accident, or experienced anal trauma related to sexual activity or rape, your rectal nerves and muscles may have been damaged. Pregnancy and pelvic surgery may also damage the nerves and muscles in this area. 

Your surgeon repairs your stretched and damaged rectal muscles during rectal prolapse repair. They may also ablate nerves that were damaged and cause constant pain.

You have underlying medical conditions

You may have an infection or an underlying medical condition — including diabetes or cystic fibrosis — that affects the health of your rectum. When you come in for diagnosis and treatment for rectal prolapse at Colon and Rectal Surgeons of Greater Hartford, we conduct a thorough physical exam and do bloodwork to get a comprehensive picture of your overall health.

If you have underlying medical conditions or infections, we may refer you to a specialist. Resolving these conditions could prevent you from having a relapse of your rectal prolapse after it’s been repaired.

If you suspect that you have internal or external rectal prolapse, contact the colorectal specialists at Colon and Rectal Surgeons of Greater Hartford today for an evaluation and surgical recommendations. Call the office nearest you, or use the online form.

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