People who have given up on taking long walks for fear of an accident with their bowels may have rectal prolapse. More common in women than men at a ratio of 6 to 1 according to the Encyclopedia of Surgery, rectal prolapse occurs when the rectum falls, or prolapses, creating a bulge. Prolapse is caused by a weakening of the sphincter muscle or the ligaments that hold the rectum in place. In women, that bulge may lead to a rectocele, in which the rectum pushes into the vagina back wall. The condition affects approximately 4.2 among 1,000 people. In the over-65 crowd, incidence increases to 10 in 1,000. The condition may require surgery if it interferes with daily life and can worsen with constipation and straining, among other factors.
In rectal prolapse, the rectum protrudes through the anus during and after defecation. It may even protrude when the person sneezes or coughs. In severe cases, the anus can close on the rectum, cutting off the blood flow.
Fecal incontinence affects 5.5 million people in the United States, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearing House. Fecal incontinence occurs when the person loses control of the bowel. It can strike at any time, and with rectal prolapse, the problem can occur because the person has lost the urge to have a bowel movement until it is too late. The problem also can manifest itself as a feeling that the bowel has not voided completely or in an urgent need to have a bowel movement.
Leakage of Blood or Mucus Through the Anus
Sometimes rectal prolapse can result in blood or mucus leaking through the anus or in anal pain or itching. Leakage presents a hygiene problem as well, but is not nearly as dire as fecal incontinence.
Passage of Tiny Stools
The faeces of someone who suffers from rectal prolapse may resemble rabbit droppings, tiny balls that drop into the toilet one by one. This condition can be helped by adding fibre to the diet.
Symptoms for Women Only
Rectal prolapse may affect a woman's sex life, causing painful intercourse, vaginal pressure or pain and lower back pain. At the very least, it may affect her sense of desirability as the protrusion into the back wall of the vagina may be evident to her partner.