A hernia happens when the muscle or tissue that surrounds the internal organs bulges through an opening or weak spot in the surrounding muscle or connective tissue. Hernias can occur in various parts of the body, such as the abdomen, groin, and upper thigh. As an individual gets older, the muscles start to see constant wear and tear, increasing the risk of hernia. Hernia can also be the result of an operation, an injury, or a birth defect.
What is Hernia?
Our abdomen is surrounded by strong and robust muscle layers that assist in the movement of the muscles and safeguard the internal organs. In some cases, there can be a weak spot or opening in the surrounding muscles that contain organs, which can cause them to bulge out. The most common type of hernia is an inguinal hernia, which occurs in the groin area. Hernias can cause discomfort, pain, and other symptoms and may require medical treatment, such as surgery, to repair. Here, let’s take a look at different types of hernia.
Types Of Hernia
There are several types of hernia; the following are the most common
- Epigastric hernia: An epigastric hernia develops in the epigastric region which is situated above the belly button and below the rib cage. They result from an opening between the two sides of the abdominal muscles that enables fat tissue or parts of the intestine to push through the abdomen.
- Inguinal hernia: Inguinal hernia is the most common type of hernia. An inguinal hernia develops when tissue or a portion of the small intestine pushes into the groin or scrotum area and creates a noticeable protrusion. Men and boys are far more prone to inguinal hernias. An inguinal hernia can either be present at birth or may develop over time. This can be further classified into two types, Direct Inguinal hernia, and Indirect Inguinal hernia
- Umbilical Hernia: An umbilical hernia can be identified by a bulging belly button or a soft swelling or protrusion close to the navel. When fatty tissue or a portion of the intestine protrudes through the abdomen close to your belly button, it is known as an umbilical hernia. Infants, particularly those who are premature or have a low birth weight, are most likely to develop a hernia. Although adults can develop umbilical hernias.
- Hiatal Hernia: A hiatal hernia develops when a portion of the stomach rises up through the diaphragm and into the chest cavity. Chest pain, heartburn, indigestion, difficulty swallowing, often regurgitating food, and difficulty breathing are all signs of a hiatal hernia.
- Obturator Hernia: An obturator hernia is a rare type of abdominal hernia that occurs when abdominal contents, such as intestine or fat, protrude through a weakened area in the pelvic wall and into the obturator foramen, a small opening in the pelvis. It typically doesn't show an outward bulge and is often asymptomatic. It is common in women who have had several pregnancies and severe weight loss.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Hernia?
Individuals with hernias may or may not have symptoms. The size, location, and existence of complications can all affect the symptoms. Asymptomatic people may detect the condition during a regular medical check-up.
Some of the common symptoms of Hernia are as follows -
- Visible bulging in the affected area that may become more prominent when standing, coughing, or straining.
- Pain or discomfort in the affected area, especially when lifting heavy objects or during physical activity.
- A feeling of heaviness or pressure in the affected area.
- A burning or aching sensation at the site of the hernia.
- Nausea or vomiting in some cases, particularly with hiatal hernias that occur in the upper stomach.
- In some cases, the hernia may become trapped or "incarcerated," which can cause severe pain, nausea, vomiting, and a feeling of fullness or constipation.
It is important to seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms, as a hernia can lead to serious complications if left untreated.
What Are The Main Causes Of Hernia?
Though the exact cause of hernia is unknown; researchers have associated the following factors with the development of the condition.
- Congenital weakness: Some people are born with a congenital weakness or opening in the abdominal wall, which can lead to the development of a hernia later in life.
- Aging: As we age, our muscles and connective tissues can become weaker, making hernias more likely to occur.
- Strain or pressure on the abdominal wall: This can be caused by activities that involve heavy lifting, persistent coughing, straining during bowel movements, or pregnancy.
- Previous surgery: A previous surgical incision or scar tissue can weaken the abdominal wall and increase the risk of developing a hernia.
- Obesity: Being overweight or obese can increase the strain on the abdominal wall and increase the risk of developing a hernia.
- Chronic lung disease: Conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or cystic fibrosis can cause chronic coughing, which can increase the risk of developing a hernia.
- Poor nutrition or smoking: These factors can weaken the connective tissue and increase the risk of developing a hernia.
Who Is At Risk Of Developing Hernia?
The following are the most certain conditions for an individual to develop a hernia:
- Age: As people get older, their muscles and tissues may weaken, making them more susceptible to hernias.
- Gender: Men are more likely than women to develop hernias, especially inguinal hernias.
- Family history: If someone in your family has had a hernia, you may be more likely to develop one.
- Obesity: Being overweight or obese puts extra pressure on the muscles and tissues, making hernias more likely to develop.
- Chronic coughing or sneezing: Frequent coughing or sneezing can strain the abdominal muscles and increase the risk of hernias.
- Heavy lifting: Lifting heavy objects can strain the muscles and tissues in the abdomen, making hernias more likely to occur.
- Straining While Passing Stools: Straining during bowel movements or constipation can put pressure on the muscles and tissues, increasing the risk of hernias.
- Pregnancy: Pregnancy can put extra pressure on the abdomen and pelvic muscles, increasing the risk of developing a hernia.
How Hernia Is Diagnosed ?
Hernias are often identified through the following methods:
Medical history: The doctor will record your medical history, which will include your symptoms, other ailments, and current medications and supplements, if any.
Physical Examination: Your doctor will perform a thorough physical examination to look at the physical signs of a hernia.
Imaging Tests: You will be prescribed imaging tests to confirm the diagnosis, which may include:
- Abdominal Ultrasound: It uses high-frequency sound waves to view structures in the abdomen.
- Abdominal CT Scan: Here multiple X-ray images of the abdomen are taken from different angles, and the computer then creates cross-sectional images of the body.
- Abdominal MRI Scan: An abdominal MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan is a medical imaging test that uses a strong magnetic field, radio waves, and a computer to produce detailed images of the internal structures of the abdomen
What Are the Treatment Options for Hernia?
Most cases of hernia are treated only by surgery, but medication can be given by a professional to treat the early symptoms or reduce the pain. Doctors take a wait-and-see approach to see if it gets worse. There are two methods by which the surgery for the hernia can be carried out:
- The surgeon makes a small incision in the groin area to expose and treat the hernia.
- Once the hernia is pushed back, the surgeon sutures the abdominal wall shut, or sutures and mesh if necessary.
- The goal of the mesh is to reinforce the weak area of the abdominal wall where the hernia had formed.
- Laparoscopic hernia repair is a minimally invasive surgical procedure to repair a hernia using a laparoscope, which is a thin tube with a camera and light at the end.
- During the procedure, the surgeon makes a few small incisions in the abdomen and inserts the laparoscope, which allows the surgeon to see inside the abdomen on a video monitor.
- The surgeon then inserts specialized surgical instruments through the other incisions to repair the hernia. The hernia is usually repaired with a synthetic mesh, which is placed over the weakened area to reinforce the abdominal wall and prevent the hernia from recurring.
What Are The Complications And Risks Associated With A Hernia?
Untreated hernia can cause a number of complications, some of which can be fatal.
- Strangulation: Untreated Hernia can lead to a severe condition called strangulation. Here, the hernia may get stuck in the abdominal wall if you cannot push it in. An imprisoned hernia may become strangled, cutting off the blood supply to the trapped tissue. If not addressed, a strangulated hernia poses a severe risk to one's life.
- Necrosis or gangrene: Complications typically start when a hernia becomes lodged and unable to move back in (incarceration). An imprisoned hernia can deteriorate from painful to dangerous. Your intestine may get obstructed if it is blocked and unable to pass food or gas if that is the case. Strangulation, which prevents jailed tissue from receiving blood, can cause tissue death which is called necrosis.
These complications can directly interfere with your bowel movement and cause vomiting, nausea, pain, and other stomach- and intestine-related problems
How Do You Prevent Hernia?
By reducing the strain on your abdominal muscles and tissues in the following ways, you can help prevent hernia
- Have a healthy fiber-rich diet and drink plenty of water. This will help prevent constipation and regularize your bowel movements.
- Lift heavy weights carefully, or refrain from doing so. Always bend from your knees while lifting something that is heavy in order to lower the pressure on your lower back and abdomen.
- Treat conditions such as chronic cough as it can increase the risk of hernia. Also, refrain from smoking if you are a smoker.
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