All About Hernias and Tips On How to Prevent Them

Hernias are very common and can affect men, women, adults, children, and even newborn babies. Most hernias only cause mild symptoms but others can cause pain and even develop into a life-threatening emergency if left untreated. Today we are going to go over the different types of hernias, where and why they occur, the symptoms of hernias, how they are treated, and how to prevent hernias.

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What Are The Different Types Of Hernias?

A hernia occurs when an area in the abdominal muscle becomes weak and tears allowing a section of an internal organ or abdominal tissue to protrude through the tear. Most often, hernias are visible and present as a bulge on the abdomen or in the groin area. Hernias are most often classified by where they are located or what caused them to occur.

1. Inguinal Hernias

Inguinal is a term that translates to “in the groin” and are found more often in men but can also be experienced by women. Inguinal hernias are the most common type of hernias and usually present as a bulge on either side of the pelvic region in the groin area. Inguinal hernias can be present from birth (indirect inguinal hernia) or can develop due to strain or chronic pressure applied to the abdominal muscles (direct inguinal hernia).

    • Femoral Hernia is the result of a tear that occurs in the femoral artery (a channel that runs on each side of the pelvic bone near the top of the thigh) that allows a portion of the intestine to protrude through. This type of hernia is most common in pregnant or obese women.

2. Ventral Hernias

A ventral hernia is the result of a tear in any location of the abdomen (besides the groin area) that causes tissue or an organ (such as a part of an intestine) to bulge through the tear and out through the abdominal wall.

Types of ventral hernias include:

  • Umbilical hernia – A common type of hernia that forms in the belly button of infants and small children. This type of hernia normally resolves without any medical intervention as the child matures. If the child reaches the age of 4 or 5 and the umbilical hernia is still present, it may require surgical repair;
  • Incisional hernia – A previous abdominal surgery can create a weak spot in the abdominal wall. When this weak spot tears it can create a hernia that is often larger and harder to repair than other types of hernias;
  • Epigastric Ventral Hernia – Develops along the vertical middle of the abdomen between the breastbone and the belly button;
  • Lateral Ventral Hernia – A very rare type of hernia (<1%) that is more prevalent in women and can develop on the left or right side of the vertical center line of the abdomen. Also known as Spigelian hernias, they can be present from birth or can develop later;
  • Periumbilical Ventral Hernia – Often seen in obese individuals or older men, these hernias develop above or below the belly button.

3. Hiatal Hernias

A hiatal hernia occurs in the upper part of the stomach and can push through weakened areas of the diaphragm. Often exacerbated by obesity or smoking. Symptoms of Hiatal hernias include chronic heartburn or trouble swallowing.

Who Is Likely To Get A Hernia?

Hernias can affect adults and children, both male and female. Hernias can be present at birth or can form as a result of obesity, the use of tobacco, poor nutrition, or chronic conditions that create strain on the abdominal muscles.

Constipation and straining during bowel movements, lifting heavy objects without the use of proper lifting techniques and/or equipment can cause a hernia or make an existing one worse.

Hernia Symptoms

Many hernias are noticeable on the abdomen when coughing or straining (such as lifting a heavy object) but they produce no painful symptoms.

When hernias do produce symptoms, they can vary by type and location but the most common symptoms that may indicate a hernia include:

  • A visible lump or swelling under the skin of the abdomen or groin in a concentrated location that may burn, ache or be tender to the touch and may disappear altogether when lying down;
  • A feeling of “heaviness” in the abdomen that may be accompanied by constipation;
  • Pressure or discomfort in the groin area or abdomen when bending, coughing, sneezing, or lifting a heavy object;
  • Nausea;
  • Vomiting.

Inguinal hernia symptoms may include a noticeable ‘heaviness” in the groin area, pressure, or pain in the groin especially while stress is being exerted on the area such as when coughing, lifting, or bending over. In addition, another groin hernia symptom sometimes experienced by men, is swelling, and/or pain, in or around their testicles.

Often in women, inguinal hernias present with no signs or symptoms which can delay their diagnosis. A common female inguinal hernia symptom is abdominal pain (which is a very common symptom of many women’s health issues) and is often initially misdiagnosed as ovarian cysts or some other condition.

Ventral Hernia Symptoms

In addition to the other common hernia symptoms, the symptoms of a ventral hernia can be very mild or can present as a sharp pain that worsens during physical activity. Vomiting and/or constipation are often caused by incisional ventral hernias.

Strangulated Hernia

Any hernia has the potential to become trapped (strangulated) within the tear they protrude through which can cause a life-threatening medical emergency. The symptoms of a strangulated hernia include sudden sharp pain, nausea, throwing up, constipation, or a protrusion that can not be pushed back in.

Diagnosis And Treatment Of Hernias

Hernias are often diagnosed because of the visible appearance of the bulge they typically produce. Then, they are confirmed through the use of an X-ray or CT scan.

Depending on your symptoms, the doctor will determine the best plan of care. It may be a “wait and watch” approach or it may be determined that changes to your diet and lifestyle need to be made. Sometimes medications can be prescribed that will help manage hernia symptoms and in other cases a hernia repair is necessary.

Hernia repairs are done through different surgical techniques but in all instances, the protruding tissue is pushed back through the abdominal tear and then the tear is repaired with sutures or reinforced with a mesh material to prevent reoccurrence.

Laparoscopic Ventral Hernia Repair - IBI Healthcare

We can repair any type of ventral hernia: epigastric, umbilical, and incisional. Laparoscopic ventral hernia surgey with or without a mesh.

Surgical Hernia Repair Options

1. Laparoscopic hernia repair

Several small incisions are made by the surgeon on the abdomen and the hernia is repaired through these incisions. The repair is made using small surgical tools and a laparoscope (a surgical tool that guides the surgeon that is outfitted with a tiny but powerful camera). Mesh material is sometimes used to strengthen the area and prevent another hernia from forming in this same spot.

2. Open surgery for hernia repair

An incision is made by the doctor in the area of the hernia and the bulging tissue is pushed back into place and the area is sutured closed. The surgeon may also use mesh to reinforce the area.

Inguinal Hernia Mesh Pain

Sometimes when a surgical mesh is used to repair a hernia, patients experience residual symptoms that can take up to five years to manifest. This happens most often when the repair has been made in the groin area. Inguinal hernia mesh pain symptoms include irritation from the mesh material or inflammation which is the body reacting to a “foreign object” (the mesh) The mesh material can grow and embed in the area over the years or can begin to brush against nearby muscles or nerves and cause pain or irritation.

Tips On How to Prevent Hernia

Not every hernia can be avoided as some are present at birth and your chances of experiencing a hernia can increase as you age. Some factors that may be in your control to help avoid hernia development include:

  • Practice proper lifting techniques;
  • Keep a healthy body weight. Obesity increases the risk of developing hernias;
  • Exercise to increase the strength of your core and abdominal muscles;
  • Treat and control diabetes (diabetics are at increased risk for incisional hernias);
  • Do not smoke;
  • Avoid spicy foods and eat smaller meals (hiatal hernia).

Seek Treatment At The First Sign Of A Hernia

Some hernias may not be severe and will not need treatment right away or maybe will never require medical intervention. Other hernias may put you more at risk for a life-threatening emergency. Your doctor will know when and how to treat your hernia and should be made aware as soon as you discover the hernia bulge.

If you are suffering from symptoms of an inguinal hernia or are experiencing ventral hernia symptoms or symptoms of a hiatal hernia, please contact IBI Healthcare today and make an appointment to learn more about the treatment options available to you. Our expert medical team is here to help answer all your questions and determine the best plan of care for your situation.

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