Most people have heard of a hernia. But there is much confusion as to what a hernia really is. Most people know it’s a medical problem. But few know that it can quickly turn into a serious problem that requires surgery to treat. You may have even told someone humorously, “Don’t have a hernia!” when they became unnecessarily upset. But do you know how a hernia forms? Or what symptoms look for that let you know a hernia has turned into a serious problem that warrants medical treatment? If the answer to these questions is no, the following information is perfect for you.
Here is all you have to know about the hernia, hernia surgery, and the symptoms to look for that let you know you should visit your doctor as soon as humanly possible.
What is a Hernia?
A hernia is a medical diagnosis that means you have a hole in the thick connective tissue that surrounds the muscles that compose the abdominal wall. The thick connective tissue is known as the fascia, and the hole is formed because of a weakness in the abdominal wall. This weakness allows an organ, such as the intestines, and/or fatty tissue to poke through the hole. The condition can be painful and debilitating.
When the organs poke through the abdominal wall, they create a lump or bulge. This is often the first sign that a hernia has formed. If you see a lump, usually you can push it right back through. Kind of weird, right? Still, the technique works, for at least a little while. For other people, the hernia lump disappears the moment they lie down. This lump can then rear its ugly head when you cough, laugh or engage in physical activity.
Most hernias form between the chest and hips, but not always. There are other types of hernias, which include the following.
Other Types of Hernias
Men and women can both form inguinal hernias. In men, the inguinal canal is the passageway leading to the testicles that includes the spermatic cord and blood vessels. In women, the inguinal canal contains the ligament that supports the womb. An inguinal hernia is where fatty tissue or a portion of the intestine protrudes into the groin at the top of the inner thigh. This is the most common form of hernia (around 70% of all hernia cases) and tends to affect men more than women.
This type of hernia is characterized by fatty tissue or a portion of the intestine protruding through the abdomen near the belly button (navel).
When fatty tissue or a portion of the intestine pokes into the groin at the top of the inner thigh, you will be diagnosed with a femoral hernia. These hernias are less common than inguinal hernias and tend to affect older women the most.
A hiatal hernia forms when a portion of the stomach protrudes into the chest cavity through an opening in the diaphragm, which is a sheet of muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen.
An epigastric hernia is where fatty tissue pokes through the abdominal wall between the navel and breastbone (lower portion of the sternum).
This is where tissue protrudes through the previous incision site (abdominal scar) due to a remote abdominal or pelvic operation.
This hernia forms when the intestine pokes through the abdomen at the side of the abdominal muscle underneath the navel.
When abdominal organs move into the chest through a diaphragm opening, you will be diagnosed with a diaphragmatic hernia.
How Does a Hernia Form?
In most cases, a hernia forms because of weakened muscles. How do the muscles become weak in the first place? The condition could have been present from birth. The muscles can also become weaker with age. Repeated straining, such as weight lifting, can also cause a hernia with repeated pressure against the abdominal and groin regions. Pregnancy and obesity can make you more susceptible to hernias, as can frequently coughing and straining on the toilet.
10 Hernia Symptoms to Look for That You Might Require Surgery
Now that you know more about hernias, here are the signs you should watch for that could warrant serious medical intervention. We’ll next discuss what happens if you don’t receive medical attention for these hernia symptoms right away.
Lump or Bulge
This is typically the first sign that a hernia has formed. A bulge means that you have a weakened hole in your abdominal wall or tissues of the body. The bulge may appear when you stand up, strain, cough, or sneeze. You should consult your doctor the moment you notice an abnormal growth because it might not be a hernia at all. It could also be a cancerous tumor. A consultation with your doctor will give you peace of mind.
People feel various levels of pain when they have a hernia. Some people are slightly uncomfortable while others are seized by severe pain. Some may experience a bulge in addition to a burning sensation. There is also pressure along the abdominal wall when bending down or coughing.
Hernia pain doesn’t only affect the abdomen. There may also be pain or tenderness in the scrotum, labia, or legs. A hernia could occur because of a sports injury that compresses the nerves. When this happens, the pain travels to nearby nerves, which in turn causes severe discomfort. Sitting or standing too long could aggravate these painful hernia symptoms.
Inguinal and abdominal hernias can cause digestion issues, such as constipation, ineffective bowel movements, and impaired digestion. These symptoms occur when the intestine slips into the abdominal wall, leading to a protrusion, lump, or bulge.
Vomiting and Nausea
Vomiting and nausea can be signs of other types of illness, such as flu. But when these symptoms accompany a hernia, you may be facing an emergency situation. Vomiting and nausea are signs that the intestine has become trapped outside the abdominal wall, which can restrict bowel movements.
Reduced Blood Supply
A hernia can put increased pressure on blood vessels. When this occurs, the flow of blood becomes constricted around the herniated area. This results in tenderness, discomfort, numbness, and pain.
Decreased Activity Levels
A hernia can contribute to pain when lifting heavy objects, driving for a long time, and sitting at a desk all day. These activities can cause the hernia to pop out, which puts pressure on the abdomen. When you feel this kind of pain, you tend to avoid these activities, which can degrade your quality of life.
Like vomiting and nausea, fever can be an indicator of a vast number of illnesses. Fever can also be a sign that you have an incarcerated hernia. That is when the organ pushing through the abdominal wall has experienced reduced blood flow.
Feeling Full Without Eating
An abdominal hernia can put pressure on the inside of the abdomen, which causes a peculiar feeling in the gut. You might feel stuffed even though you haven’t eaten anything recently.
A hiatal hernia can cause food to regurgitate inside your mouth. The backflow of acid into the esophagus happening at the same time can cause heartburn. This causes a burning sensation as the area becomes inflamed.
How Serious Are These Hernia Symptoms?
Even the mildest hernia signs, such as a lump or bulge, should never be ignored. There is always a chance that your hernia could become incarcerated or trapped outside the abdominal wall. Other signs such as fever, vomiting, and pain, also warrant an immediate doctor visit. If the hernia does become incarcerated, emergency surgery may be necessary.
What Happens if an Incarcerated Hernia Goes Untreated?
If the incarcerated hernia goes untreated, the condition could be life-threatening. Seek immediate medical attention the moment you notice one or more of the above hernia signs.
How is Hernia Surgery Performed?
Hernia surgery is performed using a laparoscope. Small incisions are made around the abdomen, which function as entry points for telescope-like tools. One of the tools has a camera attached. The surgeon is able to perform the surgery inside your abdomen while watching a monitor in the operating room. The monitor allows for a clear view of the internal organs along with the hernia defect. Once the hernia sac is located, it is repaired before the incisions are closed using sutures or adhesive glue. In some cases, a surgical mesh is placed over the weakened hole in the abdominal wall. This prevents future hernias from forming.
Since hernia surgery is minimally invasive, there is a short hospital stay and quick recovery.
Read our article: Abdominal Hernia Repair Surgery and the Recovery Time You Should Expect
Some hernia surgeons use robotic surgery to perform hernia operations. Robotic surgery allows for incredibly precise movements not possible with the human hand. The surgeon has an unobstructed view of the surgical area by working through a sophisticated computer interface. Robotic surgery is also minimally invasive with small incisions, a short hospital stay, a lower risk of complications, and quick recovery.
Read our article: Robotic Surgery- High Tech and Safe with Reduced Downtime
How Can You Prevent a Hernia from Forming?
If you don’t ever want to experience the hernia signs above, there are some things you can do. The first is to maintain ideal body weight by eating a healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise. With regard to your diet, make sure you eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which can help to prevent constipation.
When lifting weights, use proper form and avoid lifting anything that is beyond your ability.
If you ever become ill to the point of coughing or sneezing more than normal, see a doctor right away for treatment.
You should also refrain from smoking, as inhaling smoke can lead to coughing, which in turn can trigger a hernia.
Do You Have These Hernia Symptoms? Schedule a Consultation with a Hernia Surgeon
You now know more about the hernia, why they form, and the signs that a hernia has become serious enough to warrant medical treatment. It is also important to understand that hernias do not go away on their own. Only hernia surgery can treat the condition permanently.
It may be possible to delay surgery for months or years. Some people with small hernias never require surgery. If you don’t have any other symptoms other than a bulge, you and your doctor may agree to continue watching for symptoms to occur.
Over time, however, hernias can grow larger as the abdominal wall becomes weaker. Many doctors recommend hernia surgery because an operation can prevent a serious problem, such as organ strangulation.
To receive an accurate hernia diagnosis and to learn more about your options for treatment, which could include hernia surgery, schedule a consultation with Doctor Babak Moeinolmolki of Healthy Life Bariatrics.
Doctor Moeinolmolki can help you understand more about your condition and give you peace of mind about whether to wait for surgery or operate right away. Call now to choose a time that works best for you. (310)694-4486.