Hernia Health Guide - Understanding The Types, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Equip yourself in holistic understanding of hernia as we delve into a discussion about its causes, symptoms and treatment.

july 21, 2023

As you gradually grow older, your body undergoes wear and tear and at some point, it will begin to show. The strain and the weakness of your muscles bid their time before it could pose challenges that disrupt the symphony of your body.

Hernia, a common health concern which could come knocking unexpectedly due to weakened muscles, is typically seen as you enter old age.

Whether you are experiencing symptoms or seeking preventive knowledge, this blog covers everything you need to know about ‘Hernia’. Equip yourself with an awareness of hernia as we delve into a discussion about its causes, symptoms and treatment.

What is a Hernia?

Hernia is a medical condition where an organ or a tissue protrudes through a weak spot in the surrounding muscles or connective tissues causing a bulge or lump.

They are not always bothersome, but, when left untreated, hernias could lead to life-threatening emergencies that require surgical intervention.

Based on the location, hernia is classified into various types.

1.Inguinal hernia: This is the most common type of hernia, accounting for 75% of abdominal hernias. It occurs when a part of the intestine or abdominal tissues

2.Hiatal hernia: This involves the stomach protruding through the diaphragm, where the oesophagus passes through, into the chest cavity causing acid reflux and heartburn. It is most common in people over 50 years of age.

3.Umbilical hernia: Happens when a section of the intestine pushes through the abdominal valve near the naval. It is typically seen in infants, especially in low birth weight or premature babies, but adults can get them too.

4.Incisional hernia: It develops at the site of a previous surgical incision where abdominal tissues push through the weakened scar tissues. They are a common side effect of abdominal surgeries.

5.Femoral hernia: Occurs when a part of the intestine protrudes through the femoral canal in the upper thigh. It is more common in pregnant women and obese individuals where the pelvic structure is wider.

6.Epigastric hernia: It is characterised by the protrusion of fat or tissue through the abdominal wall between the naval and sternum. This hernia will not go away by itself leading to mandatory surgeries by worsening symptoms.

7.Diaphragmatic hernia: A rare type where organs from the abdomen push through the diaphragm into the chest cavity. Most of the cases are congenital and in this serious birth defect, the diaphragm doesn’t close all the way during foetal development. Rarely, adults can develop this type due to injury.

8.Spigelian hernia: It occurs along the lateral edge of the abdominal muscles, through a weak spot called the Spigelian fascia. It is also called the lateral ventral hernia and is the rarest type.

What causes hernias?

Although muscle weakness due to ageing is the most common factor, hernia is also likely to be caused by other factors that strain the muscles such as,

  • Excessive strain on muscles due to injury or trauma
  • Congenital predisposition to hernia
  • Improper heavy lifting could increase intra-abdominal pressure
  • The increased pressure in the abdomen during pregnancy, especially in the groin area
  • Abdominal surgeries can weaken the surrounding tissues increasing the risk It is wise to stay cautious if you are potentially at risk of developing a hernia. So beware if you are,
  • A white male
  • An older person over 50 years of age
  • Have familial history
  • Have chronic constipation
  • Have a chronic infection that causes prolonged coughing or sneezing
  • Have undergone surgeries
  • History of hernia
  • Pregnant
  • Have preterm or low birth weight infant
  • Are obese

What are the symptoms of a hernia?

If you are looking for telltale signs that could warn you of the silent repercussions of wearing muscles, you should know that they are not the same for all types. Although the symptoms vary depending on the location and type of hernia, there are a few common ones that you could look out for.

  • A noticeable protrusion or swelling below the skin which may become more prominent when standing or straining.
  • Pain or discomfort at the site of the bulge, which can worsen with activities like lifting, coughing, or bending.
  • A feeling of weakness or pressure in the abdominal or groin area.
  • Some people may experience a burning or aching feeling at the hernia site
  • In certain cases, hernias can lead to digestive issues, including nausea and vomiting.
  • Hernias, particularly in the abdomen, may affect bowel movements and cause constipation.
  • Some individuals may experience fatigue or general discomfort associated with hernias.

Apart from these common signs, there are a few symptoms which can help you distinguish the types of hernia.

  • Hiatal hernias - can cause acid reflux and difficulty swallowing due to stomach protrusion into the chest cavity. Large hiatal hernias may cause chest pain, resembling heart-related symptoms.
  • Inguinal or femoral hernias may cause discomfort in the groin region, with pain and heaviness especially when standing or walking.
  • A protruding belly button could be a sign of an umbilical hernia.
  • Difficulty in breathing, rapid heart rate, blue discolouration of the skin, and bowel sounds in the chest area are commonly seen in diaphragmatic hernias.

Know that in many cases hernias are asymptomatic and are diagnosed when they show up in regular examination. If you suspect you have a hernia or experience any of these symptoms, it's crucial to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and treatment.

How to diagnose hernia?

Since hernias don’t present with symptoms most of the time, knowledge of the condition and its symptoms gives you an upper hand in early diagnosis.

After a medical examination, your doctor would conduct a physical examination where they will look for any visible bulges or lumps and may ask you to cough or strain to see if the hernia becomes more noticeable. This manoeuvre can increase pressure in the abdomen, making the hernia more evident.

If a hiatal hernia is suspected, an endoscopy may be performed. This involves inserting a thin, flexible tube with a camera (endoscope) into the oesophagus and stomach to visualise the area and confirm the diagnosis.

In some cases, it is identified during an imaging process for some medical reasons. Ultrasound, CT, and MRI are some of the imaging techniques that could help in the confirmatory diagnosis of hernia.

Diagnosing a hernia is essential to determine the appropriate treatment plan. Early detection and intervention can help prevent complications and ensure the best possible outcome.

How is a hernia treated?

The treatment plan is not one-size-fits-all. It varies depending on the type, size, and severity of the hernia, as well as the individual's overall health. In general, there are two main approaches to treating hernias: non-surgical (conservative) management and surgical repair.

Non-surgical management

  • Watchful waiting - For small, asymptomatic hernias that are not causing any discomfort or complications, your doctor may adopt a "watchful waiting" approach. Regular check-ups will be scheduled to monitor the hernia's progression and ensure that it does not become a more significant issue.
  • Lifestyle modifications - Making certain lifestyle changes can help manage the symptoms and prevent the hernia from worsening. These may include maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding heavy lifting or straining, managing chronic coughing, and addressing constipation.
  • Additional support - Wearing a hernia truss or belt may provide support and reduce discomfort for some individuals, particularly those with inguinal hernias.

Surgical management

If your hernias are symptomatic, troublesome, growing in size, or possess a risk for complications. When surgery is recommended the procedure involves pushing the protruding tissue or organ back into its proper place and reinforcing the weakened abdominal wall. There are different surgical techniques for hernia repair, incl

  • Open hernia repair surgery - A traditional surgical approach where an incision is made directly over the hernia site, and the surgeon repairs the hernia using stitches or a mesh patch.
  • Laparoscopic hernia repair - A minimally invasive procedure where the surgeon makes several small incisions and uses a laparoscope (a thin, flexible tube with a camera) to guide the surgical instruments. A mesh patch may also be used for reinforcement.
  • Robotic hernia repair surgery - A variation of laparoscopic repair where the surgeon uses a robotic-assisted system to perform the surgery with enhanced precision.

Nearly 20 million inguinal repair surgeries are done globally every year and 6 lakh surgeries in India alone. Statistics show that 90-99% of these surgeries are successful with recurrence in less than 3% where mesh repair is involved.

The key to optimal outcomes lies in choosing the best doctor and the facility. If you are looking for the best care, look no more. Ligo health center has state-of-art technology and skilled doctors offering a high success rate.

Stay informed, be proactive, make informed decisions, and navigate the complexities of hernia at ease when needed.

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