What is a hernia?
A hernia is caused by organs, such as intestines, pushing through a weakened section of the abdominal wall. The most common site is the groin, accounting for nine out of 10 hernias.
Different kinds of hernias
The abdominal wall isn’t a solid sheet of muscle; it is made up of different layers. Certain areas are structurally weaker than others and therefore more likely to develop hernias. The different types of hernia include:
Inguinal – occurring in the groin. This is the most common form, accounting for more than nine out of 10 hernias. A loop of intestine pushes against the small ring of muscle in the groin, eventually splitting the muscle fibres apart. Inguinal hernias affect more men than women and are particularly common in middle age.
Femoral – occurring high on the thigh, where the leg joins the body. Similar to the events that cause an inguinal hernia, intestines force their way through the weak muscle ring at the femoral canal until they protrude. This herniated section of bowel is at risk of strangulation, which is a serious complication requiring urgent medical attention. Femoral hernias are more common in women.
Umbilical – a portion of the gut pushes through a muscular weakness near the navel, or belly button. This type of hernia is more common in newborns. Overweight women, or those who have had several pregnancies, are also at increased risk.
Incisional – after abdominal surgery, the site of repair will always be structurally weaker. Sometimes, the intestines can push through the closed incision, causing a hernia.
What causes a hernia?
Inguinal and femoral hernias are due to weakened muscles that may have been present since birth, or are associated with aging and repeated strains on the abdominal and groin areas. Such strain may come from physical exertion, obesity, pregnancy, frequent coughing, or straining on the toilet due to constipation.
Adults may get an umbilical hernia by straining the abdominal area, being overweight, having a long-lasting heavy cough or after giving birth.
Incisional hernia can be caused by significant weight gain, pregnancy after abdominal surgery, or physical activity, such as heavy lifting. The bulge can cause pain, but it may not be visible until sudden pressure on the abdomen—such as from straining during a bowel movement, coughing, sneezing, or lifting heavy objects—occurs. Left untreated, this type of hernia can get larger.
Hernias usually do not get better on their own, and surgery may be the only way to repair them. However, your doctor will recommend the best therapy to address your hernia, and may refer you to a surgeon. If the surgeon thinks it is necessary to repair your hernia, then the surgeon will tailor the method of repair that best meets your needs. The discomfort from direct and indirect inguinal hernia may be improved by a truss/hernia belt . This can be useful while the patient is waiting for an operation of if the patient is unfit for surgery. A truss, however, is not a cure.