The Dangers of Rectal Prolapse

Rectal prolapse occurs when the tissue lining the rectum collapses into, or extends through, the anal opening 1. It most often happens following a bowel movement, resulting in a mass protruding from the anus. The rectal tissue lining may show, and it may bleed slightly. This condition is often treated at home with no need for immediate surgery, but there are dangers associated with rectal prolapse, including fecal incontinence, solitary rectal ulcer syndrome and malnutrition 123.

Fecal Incontinence

According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, fecal incontinence, which is an inability to control the bowels, is a danger of rectal prolapse and impacts more than 5.5 million Americans 1. This condition causes the sufferer to defecate unexpectedly and is commonly diagnosed in women and older adults. Successful treatments exist and may include dietary changes, medication, bowel training or surgery. A combination of treatments may be necessary to effectively treat fecal incontinence.

Solitary Rectal Ulcer Syndrome

Solitary rectal ulcer syndrome, or SRUS, may occur as a result of rectal prolapse 12. Physicians often see this condition in women in their 30s and 40s. During defecation, atypical straining forces rectal tissues down against the pelvic floor, causing trauma and restriction in blood supply to the tissues. Symptoms include constipation, rectal bleeding and ineffective straining. Physicians prescribe treatments based on which symptoms are present, but a conservative approach with laxatives, bowel retraining and sometimes steroids is preferred before surgical options are considered.


According to Pittsburgh Colorectal Surgeons at The Western Pennsylvania Hospital, rectal prolapse is associated with malnutrition 13. Malnutrition may occur when the human body gets inadequate nutrients, resulting from an unbalanced diet and digestive or absorption problems, as can occur with rectal prolapse 13. Malnutrition ranges from mild to severe, but in more severe stages, it can be fatal or cause irreversible symptoms 3. Malnutrition associated with rectal prolapse may not improve until the prolapse is treated 13.