What is a hernia and what can be done to avoid it
Everyone’s heard stories of that one guy who got a hernia from lifting too much weight in the gym or that one uncle who got a hernia even though he took things super easy after his abdominal surgery. In one case, the patient worked out a lot. In the other, not at all. Hernias are the perfect reminder of how the body doesn’t take kindly to either scenario.
Here’s a quick look at what causes hernias, and how you can avoid a world of pain with a little extra caution.
What is a hernia
Our muscles and fascia (connective tissue) hold our organs in place. When these become weak, parts of an organ can push through them and protrude into the surrounding muscle or tissue. This is called a hernia.
“Hernias mostly occur in the abdomen - usually, people who have a hernia can see a tiny bump through the skin,” said Dr Ayush Pandey, a medical practitioner associated with myUpchar.com. “There are several types of hernias, depending on where they occur: inguinal is the most common type of hernia - in 75% of cases where people have a hernia, it's inguinal hernia.”
Inguinal hernia occurs when a small part of the intestine breaks through the surrounding muscle and spills over into the groin. It can be as painful as it sounds. Men are more prone to this form of hernia than women, because of their anatomy.
Other common forms of hernia include umbilical hernia, incisional hernia, epigastric hernia, and hiatal hernia.
Umbilical hernias are common in infants and occur when the intestine bulges through the muscle near the belly button - it forms a bump which is usually painless.
Incisional hernias occur at the incision site after an operation, if the surgical wound hasn’t healed properly.
Epigastric hernias occur just above the belly button but below the breast bone - globs of fat can push through weak spots in the abdominal muscle leading to painful bumps or hernias.
In hiatal hernia, the top section of the abdomen pushes through the diaphragm into the chest - symptoms include heartburn, acid reflux, vomiting and chest pain.
Causes and symptoms of hernias
Usually, there’s a combination of factors at play: a hernia can happen when you put an extraordinary amount of pressure on your muscles. Hernias can also happen when muscles become weak because of continued disuse.
“Hernia is basically caused by the weakness of tissues, and strain or pressure. Conditions like pregnancy, constipation, damage due to injury or surgery and chronic coughing can also provoke hernia,” said Dr Pandey. “A number of risk factors like smoking, obesity and asthma, may also contribute to the development of a hernia,” he added.
Symptoms may differ depending on the type of hernia, patients often feel pain, weakness, discomfort while bending or standing up. The pain may vary from mild to intense.
Diagnosis and treatment of hernias
Generally, inguinal or incisional hernias are diagnosed during physical examination. Hiatal hernia is diagnosed by barium X-ray or endoscopy. If the hernia is strangulated, the doctor may use ultrasound for diagnosis.
The parts of the intestine or abdomen that push through the weakened muscle into the surrounding tissue can get "strangulated" when they don't get enough blood and nutrition. Sudden excruciating pain near the hernia can signal a strangulated hernia - this is a medical emergency that requires urgent attention.
Treatment usually depends on the size and severity of the hernia. Doctors can opt for laparoscopic surgery (a minimally invasive procedure in which the doctor makes a small incision to insert the laparoscope to inspect the abdomen) or open surgery, depending on the patient’s symptoms. They may also recommend exercise, medication and lifestyle changes to help patients manage the condition effectively.
Umbilical hernias usually go away on their own and do not usually require surgery.
Hernias are fairly common and their treatment can be expensive. As a preventive measure,
- Don’t lift heavy objects if you’ve just had a surgery
- Try not to strain while passing stools
- Stop smoking
- In people who have diabetes or hypertension, managing these conditions properly through medication and lifestyle changes can also help to avoid abdominal hernias
Most hernias are not life-threatening. If left untreated, though, hernias can become worse over time. In severe cases, the part of the intestine or abdomen that spills through the "hole" in the weak muscle can become “strangulated” and can eventually die.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. To know more on this topic, please visit https://www.myupchar.com/en/disease/hernia
The information provided here is intended to provide free education about certain medical conditions and certain possible treatment. It is not a substitute for examination, diagnosis, treatment, and medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health professional. If you believe you, your child or someone you know suffers from the conditions described herein, please see your health care provider immediately. Do not attempt to treat yourself, your child, or anyone else without proper medical supervision. You acknowledge and agree that neither myUpchar nor firstpost is liable for any loss or damage which may be incurred by you as a result of the information provided here, or as a result of any reliance placed by you on the completeness, accuracy or existence of any information provided herein.
Updated Date: Sep 06, 2019 17:36:02 IST
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