Hernias are incredibly prevalent and can impact individuals across all age groups and genders, including adults, children, and even newborns. While some hernias may only result in mild symptoms, others can escalate into urgent medical emergencies if disregarded. In this article, we will explore the various types of hernias, understand their causes and locations, delve into common symptoms experienced by hernia sufferers, examine treatment options, and most importantly, highlight essential measures to prevent hernias.
Prevent Hernias: 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
An inguinal hernia, also referred to as “groin hernia,” is a prevalent condition primarily affecting men, although women can also experience it. Inguinal hernias manifest as noticeable protrusions in the pelvic region of the groin, and they are the most frequently occurring type of hernia. Direct inguinal hernias may develop as a result of prolonged strain or chronic pressure on the abdominal muscles, while indirect inguinal hernias are known to be congenital.
- 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 higher weight 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 higher weight 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.
Prevent Hernias: 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.
Prevent Hernias: 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;
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.
A hernia, when left untreated, can lead to a dangerous medical emergency as it may become trapped or strangulated within the protruding tear. Recognizing the symptoms of a strangulated hernia is crucial, including sudden intense pain, nausea, vomiting, constipation, or an irreducible protrusion. Seek immediate medical assistance if you experience these signs to prevent any potential life-threatening complications.
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.
The doctor will determine the best plan of care depending on your symptoms. The best plan of care may be a “wait and watch” approach, or the doctor may determine that changes to your diet and lifestyle need to be made. Sometimes, the doctor can prescribe medications to help manage hernia symptoms, while in other cases, a hernia repair is necessary.
When it comes to hernia repairs, various surgical techniques are used. However, the primary objective remains consistent: pushing back the protruding tissue through the abdominal tear, followed by repairing the tear using sutures or a robust mesh material. This approach greatly reduces the likelihood of reoccurrence, offering effective prevention against hernia complications.
Surgical Hernia Repair Options
1. Laparoscopic hernia repair
The surgeon makes several small incisions on the abdomen and repairs the hernia through these incisions. The surgeon uses small surgical tools and a laparoscope (a surgical tool outfitted with a tiny but powerful camera) to perform the repair. Sometimes, surgeons use mesh material to strengthen the area and prevent the formation of another hernia in the same spot.
2. Open surgery for hernia repair
The doctor performs an incision in the hernia area, gently guiding the bulging tissue back into its proper position. Afterwards, the area is meticulously sutured closed. To provide additional strength, the surgeon may opt to use mesh reinforcement.
Inguinal Hernia Mesh Pain
Hernia mesh repair can lead to lingering symptoms, particularly in the groin area. Patients may experience pain and irritation as the mesh material grows or irritates nearby muscles or nerves. These symptoms can manifest up to five years after the surgery.
Tips On How to Prevent Hernia
You cannot avoid every hernia 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. If you notice a hernia bulge, inform your doctor promptly so they can determine the appropriate treatment.
If you have an inguinal, ventral, or hiatal hernia, contact IBI Healthcare immediately for expert medical assistance. Our dedicated team will address your concerns and provide the best treatment options for your condition. Book an appointment now to learn more about our care plans.