Hernias: Symptoms, Types and Treatments

Hernias: Symptoms, Types and Treatments

When an organ or any piece of tissue protrudes out of its space, the condition is called a hernia. This usually happens because the surrounding muscle or wall of tissue is weak, allowing the protrusion to happen. A hernia can be seen as a visible lump, which becomes more obvious when doing any strenuous activity or when coughing. It can disappear when lying down. Hernias can develop in almost any part of the body but are most common in the abdominal area.

It is important to treat a hernia immediately because if left untreated, there could be considerable pain and discomfort. If left for long, there could be constipation and nausea. If the intestine or other trapped tissue does not get blood supply for long, it could die or become infected, which could be a life-threatening situation.

These are the different types of hernias:

  • Inguinal hernias are the most common hernia and affects men more than women. It is caused by repeated straining of the abdominal muscles and by aging. The fatty tissues of the bowel or parts of the intestines poke through the groin or the lower abdominal wall in the area of the upper thigh.

  • Hiatal hernias occur when a part of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm and comes into the chest cavity. This is common in people who are over the age of 50. They are a major cause of gastroesophageal reflux, as the contents of the stomach, especially after a meal, leak into the esophagus. This is what causes the burning sensation in gastroesophageal reflux.

  • Incisional hernias can happen in the aftermath of an abdominal surgery, when the intestines protrude through the scar of the surgical incision or any muscles that are weakened by the surgery.

  • Femoral hernias affect more women than men. They happen when the fatty tissue of the bowels protrudes through the groin and is visible as a lump above the upper thigh.
  • Umbilical hernias happen most commonly in babies under six months of age when the intestines protrude near the belly button through the abdominal wall. This usually resolves naturally by the time the child is one year of age. If this does not happen on its own, surgical intervention would be necessary.

Some common symptoms of hernias:

  • There would be a lump that is visible and can be felt.
  • Lower abdominal pain or discomfort (for inguinal hernias).
  • Acid reflux (for hiatal hernias).
  • Chest pain.
  • Difficulty in swallowing.

There are two different ways in which hernias are treated which are through open surgery and keyhole surgery (laparoscopic surgery). This is recommended if the hernia is growing larger and there is increased discomfort. The hole that allows the organ or tissue to protrude is sewed and closed during the surgery.

Most times, a mesh is used to close this hole. In keyhole or laparoscopic surgery, small incisions are used to repair the hernia and do not damage any tissues that are surrounding the hernia. The procedure is minimally invasive and it typically requires minimal recovery.

Recovery after a Hernia repair

After hernia surgery, most patients return to their normal activities within days. However, it is important to note that there are multiple factors, which play into an individual’s hernia recovery.  It is recommended to return to normal activities cautiously and to stop if any pain is caused.  It is vital to long-term health to heal completely before straining your body.

Depending on the type of work, it is common for patients to be able to return to sedentary work within 3-5 days, moderately physical work within 1-2 weeks, and physically intensive work within 2 weeks with a light workload period. If the surgery is done as an outpatient procedure, patients can expect to go home the same day. Patients should be able to travel within hours of surgery.

Doctor Alexander is a professional, confident physician who will make himself your partner on this journey to a better, healthier you. He is compassionate, kind, caring and will take time to talk to you about your condition in order to find the best possible treatment. His bedside manner is like no other.

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