A hernia is a sac that can be formed by the lining of the abdominal cavity. The sac develops from a weak area or hole in the fascia, which is a layer in the abdominal wall surrounding muscles there. There are many different types of hernias, including a femoral hernia, hiatal hernia, incisional hernia, inguinal hernia, and umbilical hernia, all of which are caused by different things and at different locations.
Causes of Hernias
In most cases, there is no single cause of a hernia, though they can occur from pregnancy, straining while in the toilet, lifting something heavy, or another physical activity that involves raised pressure in the abdomen. A hernia can be present though the bulge isn’t obvious so someone doesn’t realize they have it. Some hernias can also be genetic, where parents pass the gene on to their children. In infants and children, hernias are caused by weakness in their abdominal wall with this occurring in about 5 out of every 100 children, and are more common in boys. Other causes include chronic constipation, chronic cough, cystic fibrosis, enlarged prostate, extra weight, fluid in the abdomen, poor nutrition, heavy lifting, peritoneal dialysis, smoking, overexertion, and undescended testicles.
Symptoms of Hernias
Many times, people with hernias won’t experience any symptoms. There may be some discomfort or pain associated with a hernia, but not always. Common symptoms are feeling pain or discomfort when you stand, lift heavy objects, or strain in some other way. You might also feel a growth that feels tender to the touch and seems to be growing larger. Hernias that aren’t treated can grow larger and become more painful. If it is causing severe pain or looks visible strangulated, the tissue inside the hole has cut off blood supply and you should get urgent care.
Diagnosing a hernia usually starts with a physical examination, many times your doctor can confirm the hernia by this alone. This is especially true if the grows increases in size after lifting, straining, bending, coughing, or simply standing up. Ultrasounds are often used to find a hernia growth as are x-rays of the abdomen and CT scans of the abdomen.
The only treatment available to permanently treat a hernia is surgery. However surgery can be risky for some patients, especially infants or elderly patients. If it is small and not causing pain or severe symptoms, the surgeon may keep an eye on it and monitor its size but not remove it until absolutely necessary.