What is a Hernia?
A hernia occurs when an internal part of the body, such as an organ or any fatty tissue, pushes out through a weak spot in a surrounding muscle or tissue wall. For example, the intestines may push through a weakened area in the abdominal wall.
Hernias are most common in the abdomen, however, they can also appear in the upper thigh, belly button, and groin areas. Most hernias aren’t immediately life-threatening, but they can’t go away on their own. Sometimes they need to require surgery to prevent potentially dangerous complications.
Types of Hernia
The most common types of hernias are as below:
Inguinal hernia (inner groin):
This is the most common type of a hernia seen in men and occurs when the intestines push through a weak spot or tear in the lower abdominal wall, often in the inguinal canal. This type of a hernia is associated with factors like aging and occurs if the abdomen is repeatedly strained.
In men, the inguinal canal area is the place where the spermatic cord passes from the abdomen to the scrotum. This cord holds up the testicles.
In women, the inguinal canal contains a ligament which holds the uterus in position.
Incisional hernia (resulting from an incision):
This type may occur to some people who have undergone abdominal surgery. The intestines may push via the incision scar or the surrounding, weak tissue.
Femoral hernia (outer groin), umbilical (belly button):
This type tends to occur more in women than men. It occurs when fatty tissue or a part of bowel spills through into groin at the top of inner thigh. It is also associated with aging and occurs due to the repeated strain on the abdomen.
Hiatal hernia (upper stomach):
This type is most common in people above 50 years of age and occurs when part of the stomach protrudes up through the diaphragm into the chest cavity. Hiatal hernias can cause a condition like gastroesophageal reflux, which is when the stomach contents leak back into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the heart.
This condition occurs when fatty tissue or a part of the bowel pushes through the abdomen near the belly button.
Other less common types of hernias
- Epigastric hernias
- Spigelian hernias
- Diaphragmatic hernias
- Muscle hernias
How does a hernia occur?
Hernias are typically caused by a combination of:
- Weakness in the muscles or connective tissues, caused by a disturbance in the body’s natural cycle of tissue breakdown and repair.
- Increased pressure or strain on the weak muscles or connective tissues.
Hernias mostly can be divided into two categories:
Congenital – It can develop even before birth, though, it may not be diagnosed for weeks, months, or even years. This type of a hernia develops much later in life may actually be the result of a weakness that you have had since you were an infant.
Acquired – It occurs when the muscles or connective tissue in your abdomen become weak due to pressure or are damaged due to an injury as you grow older.
As age increase, your body is constantly involved in a balanced cycle of building up and breaking down muscles and tissue. With age, the enzymes which control this process can get out of balance. When your body cannot balance the build and repair cycle effectively, the muscles and tissue, especially in the groin area may become weakened.
Most common factors which can lead to weakened muscles are:
- Poor nutrition
- Advanced age
- Lack of exercise
- Leading a sedentary life
- Heavy smoking
- Drinking alcohol heavily
- Medical operations
Once your abdominal wall becomes weak, anything that puts pressure on or strains those weak spots can cause a hernia to develop, like:
- Chronic coughing
- Heavy lifting
- Damage due to surgery
The extra pressure forces fatty tissue or, in some cases, part of your intestine through a weak spot, creating a bulge that you can be able to see and feel under your skin.
As mentioned above, there are different types of hernias based on where it occurs in the body.
Based on its cause, a hernia can develop quickly or over a long period of time.
What are the causes of a hernia?
Common causes of muscle weakness which can finally lead to a hernia such as:
- Failure of the abdominal wall to close properly in the womb – congenital defect
- Advanced age
- Chronic coughing
- Damage from injury and surgery
Factors which strain your body and may cause a hernia, especially if your muscles are weak, include:
- Being pregnant, It puts pressure abdomen
- fluid in the abdomen
- Being constipated
- Lifting heavy weights
- Sudden weight gain
- Persistent coughing
What are the symptoms of a hernia?
The most common symptoms of inguinal, femoral, umbilical, and incisional hernias, are:
- A prominent swelling beneath the skin of the abdomen or the groin which may disappear when you lie down. It can feel tender or sore.
- A feeling of a heavyweight in the abdomen which is at times accompanied by constipation or sometimes blood in the stool.
- Discomfort in the abdomen when coughing, lifting a weight and bending over.
Symptoms of a hiatal hernia may include
- Upper abdominal pain
- Acid reflux,
- Chest pain
- Difficulty in swallowing
If your baby suffers from a hernia, you can only be able to feel the bulge when crying, which is the only symptom of an umbilical hernia in infants.
Some Individuals may not have any visible symptoms of a hernia. In that case, it might show up during a routine medical exam or a physical exam for some other medical issue.
Who is prone to a hernia?
A hernia can be developed at any age and in anyone whether he/she is physically active or not, but below listed peoples are at higher risk.
- Mostly Men
- People above 35 years due to weak muscle and tissue
- An individual who born with muscle weakness
- A person having close relatives with this condition
- People who lifting heavy objects
- Overweight or obese people
- People who suffer from a chronic cough
- Frequently constipated individual
- Experienced surgery or injury which that tears the muscles and connective tissues.
- Heavy Smokers
How is a hernia diagnosed?
Basic diagnosis is done by :
- Physical Examination like touch or feel
- Medical History
- A patient asked for a cough, bend, Push and lift
- CT Scan
- X-Ray of abdomen
What are the complications of a hernia?
In very few cases, inguinal hernia repair can damage structures involved in the function of a man’s testicles.
Another risk of hernia surgery includes nerve damage, which can lead to numbness in the groin area.
If a part of the bowel was trapped/strangulated before surgery, it can lead to a bowel perforation or dead bowel.
Pressure placed on the hernial contents can compromise the blood supply to a section of an organ or tissue, leading to ischemia, cell death, and even gangrene. A strangulated hernia can be life-threatening and requires immediate surgery.
When part of the gut herniates, the bowel contents can no longer be able to pass through the herniated area, leading to cramps, the absence of defecation and vomiting.
What is the treatment of a hernia?
Surgery is the only option for treatment of a hernia. It can be more risky for patients with serious medical problems though.
It can be done via Open surgery or Laparoscopic surgery which uses a tiny camera and miniaturized surgical equipment to repair a hernia using only a few small incisions.
Laparoscopic surgery has the advantages of smaller surgical cuts, faster recovery, and very less pain after the surgery.
Lifestyle Changes :
- Dietary changes can relieve in some symptoms of a hiatal hernia but cant goes away fully.
- Avoid large or heavy foods
- Don’t lie down after a meal
- Keep your body weight normal
- Avoid Foods that cause acid reflux or heartburn
- Do not smoke
If a person has a hiatal hernia, OTC and prescription medications that reduce stomach acid can relieve discomfort and improve symptoms such as antacids, H-2 receptor blockers, and proton pump inhibitors.
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