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A hernia occurs when parts of an internal organ like an intestine push through an opening or weak spot. Hernias are not life-threatening, but it’s essential to seek treatment as soon as possible. Hernias are not only located in one section of the stomach – you can find hernias in various parts of the body. Most occur in the abdomen area between the hips and the chest. You can also have a hernia in your groin region or upper thigh. When a hernia occurs, it will not go away on its own. Depending on the underlying cause, a hernia can develop slowly over a long period or quickly. Sometimes you may need surgery to avoid developing severe complications. Most of the time, Hernias occur as a result of muscle strain and weakness. This can be due to the following:
- A congenital deformity that occurs when the child is in the womb and doesn’t go away even after birth
- Muscle damage due to recent surgery or injury
- Lifting heavy objects or engaging in strenuous activities
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder or coughing
- Old age
- Multiple pregnancies
- Constipation resulting in straining during bowel movement
Certain factors can also increase hernias in the future. They include the following:
- Being born prematurely or with low weight during birth
- Family or personal history of hernias
- Cystic fibrosis
- Long-term coughing
- Chronic constipation
- Obesity and being overweight
Types of Hernia
A majority of hernias occur between the hips and the chest. Here are the most common types of hernia;
Inguinal hernias occur more often. They develop when parts of the intestines push through the inguinal canal. The inguinal canal is the lower abdomen wall located in the groin region. Inguinal hernias are more common in men than in women. Problems occur when the inguinal canal doesn’t close as it should, resulting in weaker spots in the wall.
These kinds of hernias occur where the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm. This form of hernia occurs mainly in individuals over the age of 50. However, children can still get Hiatal hernias due to congenital birth deformities. Hiatal hernias are responsible for gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.
Umbilical hernias are mostly found in babies and young children. They occur when parts of the intestine push through the abdominal wall near the belly button. They appear as bulges near the belly button that are more noticeable when a child cries. Unlike other kinds of hernias, an umbilical hernia will usually go away on its own. The hernia usually disappears when the child is one or two years old. However, if the hernia is still present by the time they are turning five, surgery helps correct it. Some adults also experience umbilical hernias. In adults, such hernias occur due to prolonged abdominal strain. This can happen when there is fluid buildup in the abdomen, during pregnancy or if one is obese.
A ventral hernia occurs when excess tissue pushes through an opening in the abdominal muscle. Such a hernia decreases in size when you are lying down. Ventral hernias can be present since birth. Most, however, occur due to pregnancy, obesity, and when engaging in strenuous activities. Such hernias can also occur in areas with surgical incisions.
Symptoms of Hernia
A hernia occurs as a noticeable bump in the abdominal region, upper thigh, or groin. The lump disappears when you lie down. Coughing, laughing, or crying can push it back out. The main signs and symptoms of a hernia include;
- A bulge or swelling in the scrotum or groin
- Pain at the site of the bump
- Pain that increases when you lift something
- A bulge that incases in size over a while
- A dull, painful, or aching sensation
- A tendency to feel full most of the time
Hiatal hernias don’t cause a noticeable bulge. Instead, the symptoms will include indigestion, heartburn, swallowing difficulties, chest pain, and regurgitation.
Diagnosis of Hernia
Hernias are usually easy to diagnose. The doctor only needs to look and feel for the bulge. In the case of inguinal hernias, the doctor will feel bulges around the groin and testicles. In other cases, imaging tests like CT scans can help diagnose a hernia long before a bulge appears.
How to Treat Hernia
Hernias don’t go away, and surgery is sometimes the best course of treatment. After conducting a physical exam, the doctor will suggest the best surgical procedure. There are three types of hernia surgeries;
Open surgery: The surgeon cuts at the hernia’s location. The protruding tissues are then pushed back in place. The wakened wall is then stitched and sometimes a mesh implanted for added support.
Laparoscopic surgery: During this surgery, tiny incisions are made through the hernia site rather than a cut. Surgical tools will then be inserted through the incisions to repair the hernia and the wall.
Robotic hernia repair: The surgeon operates the surgical instrument handles through a computer console. Again, small incisions are made to repair the hernia. Robot hernia repair is usually recommended when the hernia is too small. The procedure can also help in the restoration of the abdominal wall.
How to Manage Hernia
Hernias caused by congenital deformities are hard to prevent. You can, however, reduce the strain on the abdominal tissues and muscles. Here are a few ways of managing hernias:
- Exercise to lose weight and make sure you maintain a healthy body weight
- Opt for foods rich in fiber since these can help prevent abdominal straining and constipation that may worsen a hernia
- Avoid lifting heavy objects, especially, if you have a history of hernias
- If you smoke, quit since smoking can lead to chronic coughing, which worsens some types of hernia like inguinal hernias
- What happens if a hernia is not treated? If a hernia is not corrected, it can grow bigger leading to more pain. It can also increase your risk of developing severe complications like strangulation. Strangulation occurs when blood supply to the abdominal muscle reduces. This can lead to tissue death within minutes, which can be fatal.
- Are hernias preventable? Maintaining an ideal weight, quitting smoking, eating fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, using the correct form when lifting heavy objects can prevent hernias from occurring in the first place.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!