If you have a hernia, a piece of intestine, fat, or other tissue bulges through a torn or weakened abdominal muscle. Hernias can develop painlessly over time or appear suddenly, all it takes is increased pressure in the abdominal cavity. They usually result from wear and tear due to age, heavy lifting, a birth defect, prolonged coughing, or obesity, but many hernias have no apparent cause.
What are the different types of hernias?
Different types of hernias appear in different areas of the body. The most common type, known as an inguinal hernia, is a protrusion of tissue in the groin. (This is usually what people mean when they refer to a hernia.) Other types include a femoral hernia, which occurs where the abdomen meets the top of the thigh. an incisional hernia, which occurs when muscles are weakened by surgery. and a hiatal hernia, which occurs internally when part of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm into the chest cavity.
How can I tell if I have a hernia?
If you have a hernia, you will likely notice a soft lump under the skin near your groin or abdomen. This lump may feel tender and firm to the touch and may (or may not) go away when you lie down. Hernias can be either relatively painless or almost excruciating. It is often the cause of a dull aching sensation that worsens when you cough, strain your bowels, or lift something heavy. This discomfort can increase over time as more tissue pushes through the tear. Hernias that get worse quickly can cause sharp, intense pain.
Do only men get hernias?
Although nearly 80 percent of people who develop hernias are men, anyone can get them. Women whose abdominal muscles have weakened from childbirth are particularly susceptible. Even a newborn can have a hernia if their abdominal muscles are not developed properly.
Are hernias dangerous?
Most are not. Doctors can usually push the protruding tissue back into the abdominal cavity and surgically close the weakened muscles. However, in some cases, a protruding section of bowel can become “strangled” or pinched between the torn muscles (Think of a kink in a garden hose.) Strangulation is excruciatingly painful and can be life-threatening: It requires immediate surgery to avoid consequences such as tissue blood loss or obstruction in the digestive tract.
What is the treatment for hernia?
A common myth is that limiting activities and getting enough rest can heal a hernia. Although this will certainly relieve the symptoms, surgery is the only way to repair the hernia. Since neglecting a hernia can have serious consequences, consult your doctor for the best course of treatment. About 600,000 people undergo groin surgery in the United States each year, making it one of the most common procedures performed.
In the traditional hernia repair method, the hernia repair, the surgeon makes a small incision above the hernia, pushes the protruding tissue back into place, and stitches the torn muscles together. You can usually resume normal activities four to six weeks after the procedure. Another surgical method, the hernia, uses synthetic mesh mesh or “plugs” to reinforce damaged muscles. After several weeks, new tissue grows over and through the screen, creating a stronger bond that is less likely to weaken again. Hernia procedures can be done under local anesthesia and recovery time is usually less than after a hernia. Your doctor will let you know what activities you can do based on how you feel afterwards.
Laparoscopic surgery, the newest form of hernia, has received much favorable attention because it is minimally invasive with a recovery period of a few days. In this method, the surgeon makes a few tiny incisions in the abdominal wall and inserts the necessary surgical instruments. These include the mesh patch and the laparoscope, which is like a small video camera that magnifies the internal organs and allows the surgeon to see the hernia on a video screen as he repairs it. Get some background on your surgeon: Studies show that a surgeon’s level of experience is an important factor in determining the results of laparoscopic surgery. Whichever method you and your doctor decide is best for you, make sure you choose a board-certified surgeon to perform the procedure and make sure the hospital or outpatient surgery center is accredited. The American College of Surgeons has a searchable database to help you find a general surgeon or specialist in your area. Your family doctor should also be able to help you with a referral.
Is there any way to prevent a hernia?
There are certainly some precautions you can take:
- Be careful when lifting heavy objects. Lift with your knees, not your back, and don’t attempt to move anything too heavy for one person to handle.
- Stop smoking. Smokers often have a violent and persistent cough, which can increase him hernia risk.
- Excercise. Regular exercise is an important safeguard, as strong muscles are less likely to tear.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight strains your body and can also dangerously stretch the peritoneum or abdominal lining.
- Get plenty of fiber. Regular bowel movements will prevent undue straining.
- Don’t strain your muscles. Weightlifters, football players and golfers often strain or tear muscles that are prone to herniation. Be sure to warm up sufficiently before such activities and watch out for that warning bump.