Understanding the Differences Between Haemorrhoids and Rectal Prolapse

Haemorrhoids and rectal prolapse are two distinct medical conditions affecting the rectal area, which can be treated by your prolapse specialist or colorectal surgeon in Melbourne. While they can cause similar symptoms and discomfort, it’s crucial to understand their differences to seek appropriate treatment and management. Here, a leading colorectal surgeon sheds light on haemorrhoids and rectal prolapse, highlighting their unique characteristics, causes, symptoms, and treatment options.


Haemorrhoids, also known as piles, are swollen blood vessels in the rectal or anal area. They can occur internally or externally. Internal haemorrhoids develop within the rectum and are usually painless, causing bleeding during bowel movements. On the other hand, external haemorrhoids occur outside the anus, causing discomfort, itching, and pain.

  • Causes: The primary causes of haemorrhoids include increased pressure on the veins in the rectal area. This can result from straining during bowel movements, chronic constipation or diarrhoea, obesity, pregnancy, or sitting for prolonged periods. Additionally, age, a low-fibre diet, and a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to the development of haemorrhoids.
  • Symptoms: Typical symptoms of haemorrhoids include rectal bleeding, bright red blood in the stool or toilet paper, itching, pain or discomfort during bowel movements, and a feeling of fullness in the rectum. It is essential to note that rectal bleeding can also be a symptom of other more severe conditions, so it is advisable to seek medical evaluation for an accurate diagnosis.
  • Treatment: Most cases of haemorrhoids can be managed with lifestyle modifications and medication. Increasing dietary fibre intake, drinking plenty of fluids, practicing good toilet habits (avoiding straining), and regular exercise can help alleviate symptoms and prevent flare-ups. Over-the-counter creams, ointments, suppositories, and witch hazel pads can provide relief from discomfort and itching. In more severe cases, medical procedures such as rubber band ligation, sclerotherapy, or surgery may be recommended by your colorectal surgeon in Melbourne.

Rectal Prolapse

Rectal prolapse occurs when the rectum protrudes outside the anus. It happens when the rectal walls and the surrounding tissues weaken, allowing the rectum to slip out. There are three types of rectal prolapse: internal, external, and complete prolapse.

  • Causes: The causes of rectal prolapse can vary and may include weakened pelvic floor muscles, chronic constipation, straining during bowel movements, prior surgery in the pelvic area, childbirth trauma, or underlying medical conditions such as cystic fibrosis or nerve disorders.
  • Symptoms: The symptoms of rectal prolapse depend on the severity of the condition. In mild cases, patients may experience a protrusion of the rectum during bowel movements, which retracts spontaneously. As the prolapse progresses, patients may observe a protrusion that requires manual reinsertion. Other symptoms can include mucous discharge, rectal bleeding, difficulty controlling bowel movements, and a sensation of incomplete emptying.
  • Treatment: Treatment for rectal prolapse depends on the severity and individual circumstances, but you should always seek help from a prolapse specialist. In mild cases, lifestyle modifications such as increasing dietary fibre, maintaining regular bowel habits, and pelvic floor exercises may be recommended. For more severe cases, medical interventions like stool softeners, enemas, or surgical procedures may be required. Surgical options from your prolapse specialist and colorectal surgeon in Melbourne include rectopexy, sigmoid resection, or a perineal procedure, and are tailored to each patient’s specific needs.

See a colorectal surgeon for effective treatment and relief

While haemorrhoids and rectal prolapse share certain symptoms and discomfort, understanding their differences is crucial for proper diagnosis and treatment. Haemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels in the rectal area, while rectal prolapse involves the protrusion of the rectum outside the anus. Consulting a prolapse specialist and colorectal surgeon in Melbourne is essential to accurately diagnose the condition and determine the most appropriate treatment plan for each individual. By being aware of these distinctions, individuals can take the necessary steps to manage their condition effectively and improve their quality of life.