At their most basic level, hernias are a condition in which organs bulge out through the muscle and tissue of the abdominal wall. This could be part of the intestine, another organ, or even fat.
Hernias can become complex pretty quickly. Some can be so small that you don’t even realize you have them. Others can cause more problematic symptoms and lead to more severe complications. The size and location of your hernia will influence the type of treatment you need or whether your doctor recommends treatment at all.
To get a better understanding of hernias, we’ll look at:
- The cause of hernias
- Types of hernias
- Treatment for hernias
Keep reading to learn more about why you may have one, the type you may have, and possible treatment options. If you suspect that you have a hernia, schedule an appointment with your medical provider.
The Cause of Hernias
Pressure within the body can force tissue — or even one of your organs — through a pre-existing opening, weakened muscle tissue, or weakened connective tissue (fascia), resulting in bulging under the skin. This could be something you were born with.
The increased pressure necessary to cause a hernia can have many causes. One of the most common causes is lifting heavy objects incorrectly. This occurs when people “lift with their back” and fail to stabilize their abdominal muscles. Other causes of hernias include diarrhea, constipation, constant sneezing, and coughing.
Some causes of hernias can be avoided by following a healthy lifestyle. These causes include:
- Unhealthy diet
- Being overweight
Preventing hernias isn’t 100% guaranteed. Fortunately, you can take smart steps to avoid them by pursuing a healthy lifestyle, using proper form when lifting heavy objects, not lifting heavy objects beyond your ability, and seeing your doctor if you’re experiencing constant sneezing or coughing.
Types of Hernias
The type of hernia you have depends on where the herniated organ or tissue is located. Other factors such as gender and age play a part, as well. We’ll look at different types of hernias to see how they develop and how to spot them.
- Inguinal hernias
- Umbilical hernias
- Hiatal hernias
This will give a better idea of how different types of hernias can develop and be diagnosed by your doctor.
Inguinal hernias are one of the most common types of hernias. They’re the result of an organ, such as the intestines, pushing through the abdominal muscles and bulging through the lower abdomen. They can be especially painful when bending over, coughing, or lifting something heavy.
On the other hand, inguinal hernias can lead to serious complications that may be life-threatening if left untreated. Your doctor is likely to recommend abdominal surgery to treat this common form of hernia if your symptoms become more intense.
Inguinal hernias tend to affect the groin area. You’ll notice a bulge on either side of your pubic bone that is more noticeable when standing up. Coughing and straining will make it even more pronounced.
Umbilical hernias are the result of your intestine pushing through an opening or weak spot near your navel. They’re more common in infants, but it is possible for adults to develop them. For children, they’re usually harmless, and most close up by age two, although some can take until the child is five years old. Adults with umbilical hernias will probably require surgical treatment.
Umbilical hernias in children usually present themselves as a soft swelling or bulge near the belly button. The bulge is usually painless and only visible when the child is under some kind of stress or strain. Seek medical attention immediately if your child has an umbilical hernia and is vomiting, showing signs of pain, or has tenderness or discoloration near the hernia.
A hiatal hernia is a result of pressure that forces your stomach through the same opening that your esophagus passes down through. This opening is known as the hiatus. Hiatal hernias can differ in size, which will influence your doctor’s recommendations for treatment.
- Small hiatal hernias can often go unnoticed until your doctor finds it while checking for something else.
- Large hiatal hernias can cause food and stomach acids to get backed up into your esophagus, resulting in noticeable symptoms.
Symptoms of larger hiatal hernias can be minimal, such as heartburn or difficulty swallowing. However, symptoms can progress into vomiting blood or black stool. Talk to your doctor immediately if your symptoms have become persistent or more severe.
Treatment for Hernias
Your hernia treatment will depend on the type of hernia you have and its location. Smaller hernias may not require surgery and your doctor may opt to monitor your symptoms until they become more severe.
Your doctor may recommend using a truss to help support the herniated area and hold it in the proper position. In the case of a hiatal hernia, they may recommend over-the-counter or prescription medication to help relieve discomfort due to acid reflux.
In the end, surgery is the best solution for treating hernias. This can be done using laparoscopic surgery or open surgery depending on the size and location of your hernia. Your healthcare team will work together to create a plan that fulfills your surgical needs best.
Evansville Surgical Associates has been providing comprehensive and compassionate surgical care for over 50 years. Call us at (812) 424-8231 or (800) 264-8231, or email us with any general questions or comments you may have. We are available from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm if you would like to schedule an appointment.