A herniation is a protrusion of tissue through a weakness in the abdominal wall. It can be either external or internal.
A doctor's physical examination is often enough to diagnose a hernia. Sometimes you will be able to feel it yourself on the side of the abdomen or groin. You may feel pain when you lift heavy objects, cough, strain during urination or bowel movements, or during prolonged standing or sitting. The pain may be sharp and immediate or a dull ache that gets worse towards the end of the day. Severe, continuous pain, redness and tenderness are signs that the hernia may be entrapped or strangulated. These symptoms are cause for concern and immediate contact of your physician or surgeon is recommended.
The most common types of hernia are inguinal, incisional, and umbilical.
- An inguinal hernia is the protrusion of the intestine or bladder through the abdominal wall in the groin. Most hernias are inguinal, and most occur in men because of a natural weakness in this area.
- An incisional hernia develops at the site of an operation where the muscles have not healed properly.
- An umbilical hernia is situated near the navel. Common in newborns, it also afflicts obese women or those who have had many children.
People can be born with weaknesses that make them prone to hernias. Anything that causes muscle strain, weakens tissue, or increases abdominal pressures can then induce herniation. Examples include obesity, lifting heavy objects, constipation
, smoking, poor nutrition or persistent coughing. Ultimately, all hernias are caused by a combination of muscle weakness and strain: a weak spot in the muscle tears under the pressure of strain, and an internal organ or tissue then pushes through the tear. Sometimes under heavy pressure, the tearing pain of a hernia may be felt. The weakened area may recover by itself or preventative measures may keep the problem from recurring.
- Avoid excessive lifting when possible
- Empty your lungs before heavy lifting, rather than filling them
- Gentle exercise on a regular basis tones and strengthens stomach muscles
- Avoid becoming overweight
- Avoid straining on the toilet.
In babies, umbilical hernias frequently heal themselves within four years, making surgery unnecessary.
In adults, surgery will usually be required to repair the area. It is important to get your hernia seen to by a doctor because if it is left untreated, the protruding organ may become strangulated (have its blood supply cut off), and infection and tissue death may occur as a result.