Anal pain, itchiness, and blood in the stool are clear indicators that something is not right. These are classic symptoms of hemorrhoids but it’s not always a guarantee that this is the case. A condition known as rectal prolapse has similar characteristics and though it’s less common than hemorrhoids, you cannot rule out the possibility it could be the reason you’re experiencing these symptoms. We will look at the two conditions and see both their points of meeting and departure. Hopefully, it will help you tell the difference between rectal prolapse and hemorrhoids and know which of the two you may be suffering from.
Definitions of Rectal Prolapse Vs Hemorrhoids
Rectal prolapse is a condition where the lowest part of the large intestines, the rectum, slides out of its position through the anus when the attachments that keep it in place loosen. It affects about 2.5 out of every 100,000 people of the general population and women are more likely to suffer from it because of pregnancy and childbirth.
There are three types of rectal prolapse and they are:
- Partial Prolapse - This is when the mucous membrane lining of the rectum starts to protrude out of the anus
- Complete Prolapse – This is when the whole rectum wall slides and protrudes out of the anus
- Internal Prolapse – This is when the rectum’s wall moves out position to a different place other than through the anus or when it starts to drop before it reaches the anus
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the rectum and anus that are very similar to varicose veins. There are two main types of hemorrhoids, internal and external hemorrhoids. Internal hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels in the rectal canal while external hemorrhoids are found beneath the skin surrounding the anus. An average of 75% of Americans will suffer from hemorrhoids at some point in their lives so they are very common.
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Symptoms of Rectal Prolapse Vs Hemorrhoids
As mentioned earlier, rectal prolapse and hemorrhoids both cause pain, itchiness, and bleeding. However, they each have distinct symptoms that set them apart and they include:
Rectal Prolapse Symptoms
- Pain and bleeding from the rectum
- Itchiness in the rectal area
- The prolapsed tissue has features similar to concentric circles
- A feeling of fullness in the bowels
- Fecal incontinence - not being able to fully control bowel movements or gas
- Mucous discharge on the stool
- Bulging in the anus after lifting, coughing, or sneezing
- A feeling of pressure in the rectum
- Painless bleeding that you notice on your stool
- Pain in the anal area
- Irritation or itchiness in the anus
- You feel hard lumps around the anus
Causes of Hemorrhoids Vs Rectal Prolapse
Hemorrhoids and rectal prolapse may develop because of some similar reasons but they have different causes. Below are the reasons why hemorrhoids and rectal prolapse may develop:
Hemorrhoids develop when the veins in the anus and rectum are put under a lot of strain. This may be because of chronic diarrhea or constipation, pregnancy and childbirth, obesity or being overweight, heavylifting, and sitting for long periods. People over 50 years have the highest prevalence of hemorrhoids because their rectum and anus tissues have weakened over time and are vulnerable to strain.
Rectal Prolapse Causes
Rectal prolapse typically occurs when the muscles that support your rectum weaken. Other reasons that may lead to rectal prolapse are:
Rectal prolapse can develop when the nerves that control the muscles of the rectum and anus are damaged. They may be damaged due to pregnancy or difficult childbirth, surgery on the pelvic region, or a spinal injury.
Straining to move your bowels for many years can make your rectum shift from its original location to the anus.
Weakening of the Anal Sphincter
The anal sphincter is the muscle at the end of the rectum that controls the passage of stool. When it weakens, the walls of the rectum can easily slide through the anus. It can weaken because of pregnancy, childbirth, or deterioration with age.
Hemorrhoids Vs Rectal Prolapse Treatment
Treatment for Hemorrhoids
You can easily treat hemorrhoids from the comfort of your home with natural remedies or over-the-counter medication. However, in situations where hemorrhoids are not responding to home remedies, surgical procedures can be done to remove them.
Below are some of the home remedies for hemorrhoids:
Fill your bathtub with warm water and sit in it for 15-20 minutes to soothe the pain and irritation. It also improves blood circulation in the anal and rectal veins to reduce inflammation. Read more How To Use Sitz Bath During Hemorrhoids?
Wrap ice inside a clean towel and press it on your hemorrhoids for 15 minutes. This reduces inflammation and soothes the pain and itchiness.
Go to your local drug store and ask for anti-hemorrhoid cream, ointment, gel, or suppositories. They are made with ingredients like hydrocortisone and witch hazel that soothe the pain and reduce inflammation.
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Eat More Fiber and Drink Lots of Water
Fiber adds bulk to stool and softens it so that it comes out without straining the rectum or anus. Water combines with insoluble fiber to make stool softer and easy to pass. Therefore, make sure you eat plenty of fiber and hydrate properly to prevent constipation. Read more How To Treat Hemorrhoids With Correct Nutrition.
Rectal Prolapse Treatment
Partial and internal rectal prolapses are the most common and they are treated by preventing constipation. This can be done through the same strategies that are used to treat hemorrhoids like eating fiber and drinking water more.
Doing Kegel exercises is also very helpful in treating rectal prolapse. They help to strengthen and relax the muscles that support the rectum so that you can have better control of your bowel movements. Since the exercises relax the muscles, they will help in preventing constipation.
Complete prolapses are very rare but when they do happen, surgery is done to repair them. The surgical repairs that can be done include:
- Surgery is done through the abdomen to attach prolapsed rectum to the backbone so that it stays in place
- Surgery is done through the rectum to remove the part that is prolapsed and then it’s attached back to the large intestine
- Both methods can be combined
Full recovery after surgery should take about six weeks.
Now that you have a good idea of what the differences are between rectal prolapse and hemorrhoids, you know what steps to take to treat them. For more reassurance, you can see your doctor who will ascertain whether you have either of the conditions and help you decide the way forward. Read more How To Get Rid Of Hemorrhoids For Good: Types, Causes And Treatments.