What Is a Hernia?
A hernia is a medical condition that occurs when an organ or tissue pushes through an opening in the surrounding muscle or tissue that normally holds it in place. Hernias can occur in various body parts, including the abdomen, groin, upper thigh, belly button, or hiatal (upper stomach) area.
Hernias are relatively common and affect both men and women of all ages. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, there were more than 91,000 hernia surgeries performed in Canadian hospitals.
What Causes a Hernia?
A hernia happens when an organ pushes through the muscle wall or other tissue that usually keeps it in place. Certain factors such as obesity, pregnancy, chronic cough, and lifting heavy objects can increase the risk of developing a hernia.
If you suspect you have a hernia, it’s important to see your doctor right away. Left untreated, a common hernia can become a life-threatening strangulated hernia, which occurs when part of the hernia loses blood flow. Learn more in this blog post.
4 Most Common Types of Hernias:
There are many different types of hernias, although some types are more common.
- Inguinal hernia: Caused by weak muscles. The muscles may have been weak since birth, or they might have been caused by strain, pregnancy, or obesity. It occurs when fatty tissue or part of the intestine pokes into the groin, and it more commonly affects men.
- Femoral hernia: Also caused by weak muscles. The muscles may have been weak since birth, or they might have been caused by strain, pregnancy, or obesity. It occurs when fatty tissue or part of the intestine pushes into the groin area, and it more commonly affects women.
- Umbilical hernia: Caused by strain, pregnancy, giving birth, or persistent coughing. An umbilical hernia occurs when fatty tissue or part of the intestine pushes into the belly button area.
- Hiatal hernia: The cause of this type of hernia is not fully known, but it’s thought to be caused by a weak diaphragm or pressure on the abdomen. A hiatal hernia occurs when part of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm into the chest cavity.
Symptoms of a Hernia
The symptoms of a hernia can vary depending on the type and location of the hernia. However, some common symptoms of a hernia may include:
- Visible bulge or lump: A bulge or lump may be visible in the affected area, such as the groin, abdomen, scrotum or belly button. The swelling may increase over time.
- Pain or discomfort: You may experience pain or discomfort in the affected area, especially when lifting, coughing, or straining.
- Weakness or pressure: You may feel weakness or pressure in the affected area.
- Digestive symptoms: If the hernia is in the upper stomach or hiatal area, you may experience symptoms such as heartburn, acid reflux, difficulty swallowing, or chest pain.
- Nausea or vomiting: In rare cases, a hernia can cause nausea, vomiting, or bowel obstruction.
- Blood in the stool: Occasionally this is a symptom of a hernia.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
Hernia surgery is recommended to prevent the hernia from becoming larger or developing complications. There are two types of hernia surgery: open hernia repair surgery and laparoscopic hernia repair surgery. Both methods are safe, and your surgeon will help you choose the best type of hernia surgery for your needs. You can go home the same day after your hernia surgery.
- Open hernia surgery: This requires a larger incision in the abdomen, which gives the surgeon greater access to the hernia site. The surgery may involve a mesh insertion to strengthen the hernia repair. The recovery time is longer for open hernia surgery, but it may be a better option for your needs if your surgeon recommends it.
- Laparoscopic hernia surgery: This requires a smaller incision. The surgery is done with a tiny camera (called a laparoscope) which allows the surgeon to see the hernia through the incision. The abdomen is inflated with carbon dioxide, which allows the surgeon to see the area more clearly during the procedure. The recovery time is shorter for laparoscopic hernia surgery, but it may only be suitable for certain hernia types.
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