A prolapsed colon occurs when the muscles and ligaments that hold the rectum inside the body become weak, allowing the colon to protrude through the anus. It is caused by excessive straining from constipation, prolonged diarrhea, a difficult pregnancy or delivery, and aging. The condition develops in stages, and early internal manifestations can be treated by increasing dietary fiber and using stool softeners. All cases of a rectum continuously protruding through the anus will need a physician’s treatment to return the colon to its original location.
Symptoms of a prolapsed colon begin with pain when trying to have a bowel movement. When the condition is first noticed, it may be possible to push the rectum back inside the body manually. There may be blood or a blood-tinged mucus noticed after a bowel movement. The colon may protrude and then retract itself back within the rectum in the earliest stage of the condition. Most people will eventually need to have surgery to repair the damaged colon.
Proper care of the digestive system can prevent the condition. Adding more fiber to the diet will bulk up the stools, resulting in an easier elimination of solid waste products from the body. Adequate hydration can contribute to the softness of a stool, making it easier to pass the stool through the anus. Movement from regular exercise will help the digestive system work more efficiently, lessening the amount of time waste products have to harden before a bowel movement. Less strain when trying to pass a bowel movement can help the muscles and ligaments involved in keeping the colon in place to maintain their strength.
Pressure from a prolapsed colon can put a strain on the surrounding organs in the body. An untreated rectal prolapse can lead to prostate troubles and bladder issues. The fallen colon can cause the uterus to tilt or prolapse through the vagina. Women can experience increased pain during menstrual cycles as well as difficulty conceiving because the colon has moved to block the fallopian tubes. Transferred pain from a prolapsed colon can cause severe back pain to develop.
Traditional surgery to treat the prolapsed colon is done through the abdomen. It requires a long incision, and consequently a longer hospital stay as the tissue heals. The surgeon will remove the prolapsed rectal tissue and attach a part of the remaining colon to the sacrum in a procedure called rectopexy. A less invasive surgery is done through the perineum, although the abdominal surgery may still be needed if the colon begins to prolapse again.