A hernia is an abnormal exit of tissue or organ, such as the intestine that break open via a weakened area in the abdominal wall or the bowel via the wall of the cavity.
A hernia develops when an organ or fatty tissue squeezes through an opening in the weak muscle or connective tissue called fascia. It mostly involves the abdomen and groin region and the common types are inguinal (inner groin), incisional (resulting from an incision), femoral (outer groin), umbilical (belly button), and hiatal (upper stomach). Though it is not a life-threatening condition, it may require surgery to avoid complications. Also Read: Fatty Liver: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
Types of Hernia
In this type of hernia, the intestine or the bladder bulges out the abdominal wall or into the inguinal canal in the groin. It is common in men caused due to general weakness and about 96% of all groin hernia’s are inguinal.
In an incisional hernia, the intestine is pushed via the abdominal wall at the region of previous abdominal surgery. It is quite common among older people or obese persons who are physically inactive after abdominal surgery.
It develops when the intestine enters the tube carrying the femoral artery into the upper thigh. It is common among pregnant women and obese women.
In this type of hernia, a small part of the small intestine passes via the abdominal wall near the navel. It is seen in new-borns and also among obese women or women who had many children.
A hiatal hernia develops when the upper stomach pushes via the hiatus, an opening in the diaphragm where the oesophagus passes.
A hernia is generally caused due to the pressure or weakness of the muscles, where the pressure pushes an organ or tissue via the weak region. Rarely in some individuals, muscle weakness is present at birth and quite often it develops later in life. Sometimes an increase in pressure in the abdomen can a cause a hernia due to the following reasons such as:
- Carrying or lifting heavy objects without steadying the abdominal muscles.
- Diarrhoea or constipation
- Continuous coughing or sneezing
- Cystic fibrosis
- Enlarged prostate
- Straining to urinate
- Abdominal fluid build-up
- Besides these, obesity, poor eating habits and smoking can weaken the muscles and increase the risk of hernia.
In most cases, a hernia is just a swelling without pain and needs no medical care, however pain and discomfort often aggravate upon standing, straining or lifting heavy objects. In general, people consult a doctor when swelling or soreness increases. A hernia may require immediate surgery when part of the gut becomes obstructed.
Seek immediate medical care when an inguinal hernia causes acute abdominal issues such as:
- Intense pain while coughing, exercising or while passing motion
- The swelling is typically firm and tender and cannot be pushed back up into the abdomen
- Acid reflux or heartburn which may result in chest pain or pain while eating is a common symptom linked with hiatal hernia
Doctors generally diagnose a hernia by doing a complete physical examination, where the doctor may observe a bulge in the abdominal or groin region that expands when you stand, cough or strain. Further, the doctors may also recommend imaging tests such as abdominal scan, CT scan and MRI scan which may assist in the diagnosis. Generally, barium X-ray and endoscopy is performed if hiatal hernia is suspected, to assess the exact location in the stomach.
Generally, hernia without any symptoms does not require any treatment, however, doctors recommend surgical repair for certain types of hernias to lessen the risk of strangulation of the gut, where the blood supply is cut off to an area of the tissue which needs an emergency procedure. Hernias can be treated either with open surgery and laparoscopic procedure.
Simple lifestyle modifications can help a person to avoid getting a hernia which includes:
- Maintain ideal body weight
- Quit smoking
- Avoid straining while urinating or bowel movements
- Eat a diet plentiful in fibre to prevent constipation. Also Read: Dietary Fibre And Its Role In Preventing Chronic Diseases
- Do abdominal exercises to strengthen the intestinal muscles
- Refrain from lifting heavy weights or bend at your knees not back if you want to lift something heavy