There are several potential causes of rectal prolapse, though no single cause stands out. In children, the condition found with cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening disease that causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in the lungs, digestive tract and other parts of the body, and whipworm, a roundworm that infects the small intestine. In adults, rectal prolapse is usually associated with constipation, and most commonly appears among people with autism, psychiatric disorders and mental retardation, as well as among the elderly.
A number of risk factors are associated with rectal prolapse. Those with a long-time habit of straining during bowel movements are more likely to develop this condition, and sometimes it is a late consequence of the process of childbirth. In a few, rare cases, genetics may play a role. Rectal prolapse is more frequent among the elderly because the aging process may play a role—aged patients may experience stretching of the ligaments supporting the rectum inside the pelvis as well as weakening of the anal sphincter muscle. Other risk factors include neurological conditions such as spinal cord transection and spinal cord disease, as well as generalized pelvic floor dysfunction, which coincides with urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.