A hernia is a painful condition in which an organ ends up pushing through muscles or tissues that hold it together. This condition occurs most commonly in the abdomen, however they can also develop in the groin, upper thigh or even the belly button. This common condition, which is diagnoses in over a 1 million Indians each year, is not immediately life-threatening. However, an untreated hernia can lead to a host of health complications. In this article, we will explore the different hernia types, symptoms, causes, risk factors, and more!
What are the Different Hernia Types to Watch Out For?
The various hernia types are classified on the basis of where they occur. Some of them include the following:
- Inguinal hernia: 70% of most cases of hernia are inguinal hernia, making them the most common hernia type. In this, the intestines end up pushing out of a tear located on the lower abdominal wall in the inguinal canal. This canal is located in the groin. In men, this canal has a cord that holds up the scrotum while in women, there is a cord here that holds up the uterus. This type of hernia is more common in men than in women.
- Hiatal hernia: In this condition, a part of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm and into the chest cavity. More often than not, it occurs in patients who are over the age of 50. However, if it occurs in a child, it can be due to a congenital defect. This type of hernia also results in acid reflux or a burning sensation in the chest.
- Umbilical hernia: This condition is very common in babies. Parents may notice intestines pushing against the baby’s belly button, especially when the baby is crying. It goes away naturally by the time the child is a year old. However, if that does not happen, surgery may be required.
- Incision hernia: This condition generally occurs right after a surgery, when the intestines push through the incision site.
What are the Different Hernia Symptoms?
Hernia symptoms often vary with the location of the hernia. However, some of the main ones include the following:
- Pain or discomfort, especially when you bend over or lift something
- A feeling of heaviness or pressure in the abdomen
- A gurgling, burning, or aching sensation at the site
- Chest pain
- Acid reflux
- Difficulty swallowing
The only hernia symptoms in children that are noticeable are a lump or budge that appears in the abdomen when the baby cries.
What are the Various Hernia Causes?
Hernia causes can be broadly classified into two main problems – muscle weakness and strain.
When the hernia causes are muscle weakness, it can be due to various reasons like:
- Damage from injury
- Damage from surgery
- Chronic coughing
- A congenital defect that does not allow the abdominal wall to close properly
When the hernia causes are strain, it can be due to various reasons like:
- Pregnancy, which is a condition that can lead to pressure on the abdomen
- Constipation, which leads to strain during bowel movements
- Suddenly gaining weight
- Fluid build-up in the abdomen
- Persistent sneezing or coughing
Who is at Risk for Developing a Hernia?
As is the case with most medication conditions, there are certain factors that put patients at a greater risk for developing them. Some of the risk factors for hernia are:
- Chronic constipation
- Smoking, which can contribute to the development of a chronic cough
- Being overweight or obese
- Having a chronic cough
- A family history of hernias
- Certain medical conditions such as cystic fibrosis
How is a Hernia Treated?
The hernia treatments prescribed by the doctor can depend on the where the hernia is located and its severity. Some of them include:
- Medicines: certain medicines like proton pump inhibitors, antacids, and H2 receptor blockers, may be given to patients to lessen the symptoms of the condition.
- Lifestyle changes: sometimes, dietary changes can also help with lessening the symptoms of a hiatal hernia. Most commonly, patients are asked to avoid food items that lead to acid reflux.
- Surgery: the only permanent hernia treatments include open and laparoscopic surgeries. Surgeons use a surgical mesh in order to repair the hole in the abdominal wall.
It is extremely important to treat the hernia in order to prevent any complications. The trapped intestine can lead to medical issues such as obstructed bowel movements, constipation and pain. Furthermore, if the trapped intestines do not receive adequate blood, the intestines can die or become infected. This can lead to life-threatening situations.
How can a Hernia be Prevented?
In order to prevent hernias from occurring, patients can take the following measures:
- Quitting smoking
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Visiting the doctor when you are sick so that you can prevent persistent coughs from developing
- Avoiding lifting items that feel too heavy for you
- Lifting objects only with your knees and not your back
- Not straining your muscles when you are passing urine or stool
A Hernia is not a life-threatening condition, however, ignoring one can allow it to develop into something that can be fatal. This is why it is essential to seek medical attention when you feel that something is wrong with you.