A hernia can occur when an organ, or possibly fatty tissue, finds its way into your fascia (the surrounding area of a muscle). They are most common in the abdomen but can also occur in the groin, thigh, or belly button. There are 5 common types of hernias.
- Hiatal: This is when a hernia affects the upper stomach. It squeezes its way through the hiatus which is an opening in your diaphragm where the esophagus passes food.
- Inguinal: This is when the bladder pushes through the abdominal wall in into an area of the groin called the inguinal canal. These are most common in men, and almost 96% of groin area hernias are inguinal.
- Femoral hernia: This type of hernia arises when the intestine of the canal that has the femoral artery enters the upper thigh area. These are most common in women, especially those who are pregnant or obese.
- Incisional hernia: This is when the intestine pushes through the abdominal wall in area where a prior abdominal surgery occurred.
- Umbilical hernia: This type occurs when part of the small intestine passes through the abdominal wall close to the naval. This is common in newborn babies and women who have had a lot of children.
Hernias are primarily caused by anything that increases pressure to the abdomen area. There are several ways this can occur such as when lifting heavy objects that cause strain because the abdominal muscles are not engaged, from deep coughing or sneezing, or from constipation or diarrhea. Certain lifestyle habits such as smoking, obesity, or poor diet can lead to weakening of the muscles which increases risk for hernias to occur. The pressure pushes through a weak area or opening of the muscle (fascia).
The symptoms of a hernia include pain or discomfort to the affected area. This pain is heightened when a person coughs, bends over, or lifts something. A hernia can be diagnosed by a doctor from an X-ray or endoscopy. Changing diet can help alleviate a hernia, but it won’t make it go away. Keeping a healthy body weight is also important. Avoiding foods that cause acid reflux or heart burn can help, especially if you have a hiatal hernia. These symptoms can also be helped by over-the-counter antacids. Sometimes hernias go away with time. If the hernia continues to grow and cause pain, a doctor may decide that surgery is best. Open surgery is a longer recovery than laparoscopic repair. However, the hernia is more likely to re-occur with the laparoscopic method and not all hernias can be treated this way. Always know that pain is your body speaking to you, so seek a doctor’s help when an area is persistently causing you discomfort. Don’t let a hernia stop you from your daily activities and being able to exercise and enjoy life.