The rectum is the lowest 12-15 cm (5-6 inches) of the large intestine and is located just above the anal canal. It is attached to the pelvis by ligaments and muscles. For a number of reasons, including advanced age, long term diarrhea, constipation or straining, these connective tissues and structures can weaken leading to the partial or complete detachment of the rectum from these anchors.
What results is the movement of the rectum itself through the anal canal, similar to feces. In advanced stages the rectum can protrude from the anus, similar to a sock turned inside out. This is a very serious medical issue that must be addressed surgically. To the untrained eye, a prolapsed rectum might resemble prolapsing hemorrhoids.
Symptoms of a rectal prolapse include pain during bowel movements, blood and mucus discharge from the protruding tissue, the inability to control bowel movements and the loss of the urge to defecate. The presence of pain and blood are shared symptoms with the various hemorrhoid types. Although hemorrhoids are not inherently dangerous, it is important that whatever the situation present, it must be properly and accurately diagnosed. Several conditions that mimic the symptoms of hemorrhoids can be life threatening as is the case with colon or anorectal cancer. Rectal prolapse can certainly lead to severe complications and is another example of why proper diagnosis is so important.
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