All About Hernia: Types, Symptoms, And Treatment

Strangely enough, hernia is one of the ailments many people suffer from; but few people have any idea as to what it is, or why it should be considered life threatening, not just distressing. There are very few occasions when family and friends are relieved to find that a person is suffering from hernia. An elderly lady who had been treated for uterine cancer, suddenly found a bulge in her stomach area some years later. Her family was terrified that she had relapsed, and that it was a tumor. They rushed her to the cancer hospital. After subjecting her to several tests, even the doctors were relieved to find that the bulge was actually a hernia, and she was sent home with a belt to support her back and stomach muscles.


A Hernia Is More Than a Bulge

Forget about the battle of the bulge. This is not about being fat. When pressure combines with a weakness in a muscle or fascia to allow a fatty tissue or an organ to push through the weak spot, you suffer from some form of hernia. A hernia is caused by a weakness of some muscle, or a fascia (a connective tissue) which allows a part of the alimentary canal, like a part of the small intestine, or even the urinary bladder, push through the abdominal wall to create a bulge. Sometimes, a patient isn’t even aware of the hernia as in the case mentioned above. Usually, a patient is alerted by the pain; but there have been many instances of patient not feeling any pain or distress. In such cases, a doctor might identify a hernia when examining the patient for some other illness.

Inguinal, Femoral, and Umbilical Hernias

There are several kinds of hernias named for the area of occurrence such as inguinal hernia, femoral hernia, umbilical hernia, incisional hernia, and a hiatal hernia. When a part of the intestine protrudes into the inguinal canal, the hernia is known as inguinal hernia. Men tend to be more susceptible to inguinal hernia as they seem to suffer a natural weakness in the groin area; while women tend to be more susceptible femoral hernia. The latter is when a part of the intestine intrudes into the cavity which carries the femoral artery into the thigh. A femoral hernia is likeliest to occur during a pregnancy. Usually, these two hernias are identified by the bulge they create.

Look for any unusual bulge in the belly

Small children are likeliest to suffer an umbilical hernia, when the small intestine protrudes through the abdominal wall near the navel. Ladies who have given birth to several children, and obese people might also suffer from umbilical hernias.

Watch Out for Debility Caused After Surgery

There is a significant risk of general weakness after undergoing any major surgery. If you have undergone any major surgery in the abdominal region, budget for weakness in the muscles there. Lifting of heavy weights, and sitting on the floor are prohibited for a period of six months post any such major operation as the patient becomes particularly susceptible to incisional hernia. The intestine pushes through the abdominal wall around the site of the surgery. This has the double risk of harming the surgical site, and of preventing blood supply to the affected tissue and muscles.

Hiatal hernia

Such debility could cause the esophagus to push through the diaphragm, which is meant to separate the alimentary canal and the pulmonary system, to cause a hiatal hernia.

Know What Causes a Hernia

Any hernia indicates weakness in the muscles, which may have been congenital, or acquired due to lack of adequate activity or post any major surgery. Chronic constipation which makes the individual to force the stools out, or diarrhea weaken the abdominal muscles. Severe coughing spasms, and/or sneezing fits can bring on inguinal hernia. Lifting any kind of heavy weight off the floor, or even an elevation, without first tightening or stabilizing the abdominal muscles can bring on a hernia. Poor nutrition, obesity, tobacco and alcohol abuse, cystic fibrosis, abdominal fluid, straining to urinate due to enlarged prostate or chronic kidney disease (CKD), and a sedentary lifestyle all contribute to lax muscles which can cause a hernia. Muscular atrophy caused by old age can also bring on a hernia as when bending over to put on shoes, tie shoelaces, or lift a book from the floor.

Preventive Measures Could Save You Considerable Distress and Expense

One way to prevent a hernia is obviously to ensure strong muscles in the abdominal and groin area. Children have traditionally been given massages after birth to improve blood circulation throughout the body, and strengthen muscles. Typically, the ladies have also been given postpartum massages to restore strength and flexibility to various muscles, and reduce pain which lingers after a delivery. Losing excess weight, eating sensibly with an eye to nutritive value, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, and exercising moderately like taking a brisk walk regularly are some of the ways you can avoid getting a hernia.

Seek Medical Advice

There’s no way that hernia is going to simply go away. Since a strangulated hernia in the gut — especially femoral hernia — can even cause death, obviously you must seek medical attention immediately. Obstruction caused to the bowels can prevent easy bowel movement leading to several other complications. Typically, you will need to undergo an operation to surgically repair the hernia. In its initial phase, an inguinal hernia can be pushed back gently with a massage. However, as the years take their toll on abdominal muscles, surgical repair remains the only option. There are several kinds of surgical procedures like laparoscopic and open surgery (herniorrhaphy), depending on the site, complexity, and whether it is repeat procedure.

Non-surgical options

Don’t fall for homeopathic and other remedies. In the long run you might require a surgical repair when other complications make it a risky procedure. This occurs when the patient is diabetic, or has cardiac issues. In such situations, a doctor might advise wearing a hernia belt all the time.


Content Reviewed by – Asian Hospital Medical Editors