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Written by Caroline Meyer

The last 15cm of the large intestine is referred to as the rectum. This part of the bowel is just above the anal cavity. Ligaments and muscles hold the rectum in place by securely attaching to the pelvis. Rectal prolapse can occur as a result of long-term constipation or diarrhoea, previous rectal surgery, childbirth, straining during bowel movements and large haemorrhoids. Having whooping cough, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or being partially or completely paralysed as also risk factors for this ailment. Being over the age of 40 is another risk factor for prolapse. The ligaments and muscles weaken causing the rectum to move out of place.  


Pain, bloody or mucus tainted discharge from the tissue which is protruding, no urge to defecate or faecal incontinence are potential signs of rectal prolapse. Feeling something protruding from the area when wiping is also an indication of prolapse in this area.  


Treatments include stool softeners, enemas, suppositories or bulking agents to reduce pain and prevent straining during elimination. This generally eases the symptoms but, in most cases, surgery is required to correct the rectal prolapse. A colorectal specialist will operate to reattach the rectum to the posterior part of the inner pelvis. Most people recover well after surgery and long-term effects are usually minimal.  


Diet plays a big part in preventing a rectal prolapse. Eat high-fibre foods and drink plenty of water and other fluids. Avoid constipation and straining during bowel movements. Get treatment for haemorrhoids and long-term diarrhoea or constipation.  

Rectal prolapse is uncommon and is usually found in people older than 40 and affects more women than men. It can rarely occur in children and usually children younger than 3 years old. Women with complicated pregnancies or who have had more than five pregnancies have a higher risk. This is not an ailment that responds to home remedies and even if the symptoms can be eased by analgesics and treatment of constipation or diarrhoea, surgery is usually required in almost all cases. Kegel exercises may also help relieve some of the symptoms. Consult your doctor should you suspect you or your baby may be suffering from a rectal prolapse. 

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