A hernia is a condition which presents itself with a soft tissue or when an organ protrudes through the weak part of the abdomen or another part of the body. It can appear in many areas, therefore, there are a lot of types of hernias. The most common one is an inguinal hernia followed by a hiatal hernia which happens through a diaphragm wall, umbilical mostly in children and incisional which can happen after surgery due to a weak abdominal wall. An umbilical hernia is mostly spotted in men, that’s why it is often called a men’s disease. With a high rate of incidence, it is important to know how to recognize it and prevent any complications.
When there are weak spots on your abdominal and pelvic wall, it can end up in organ protrusion through a fascia or the membrane covering the muscle which is at the surface of the abdominal and pelvic wall.
- At the part of the abdomen, a hiatal hernia can happen when the intestines or omentum protrudes into the chest area. It is mostly occurring in elderly and can cause burning sensation called heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux or even ileus.
- An umbilical hernia mostly occurs in children through their belly button. It is spotted like a bulge at the belly button region and it can subside on its own after a year or so. If it doesn’t, a correction surgery is advised.
- An inguinal hernia is the most common one which is found in the groin area, where the intestine or sometimes a bladder can go through inguinal canal due to a wall weakness. It is mostly in men where their spermatic cord goes to the scrotum. It is associated with aging and straining of the surrounding muscles.
- A femoral hernia is common in pregnant women where the soft tissue passes the canal where the femoral artery is.
- There are other less common hernias such as paraesophageal hernia, congenital diaphragmatic hernia, Spigelian hernia, obturator hernia and others.
What Does a Hernia Feel Like?
The most common misconception is that a hernia must hurt. This is not a rule. Not every hernia is followed with a pain occurrence. Some will just appear as a bulge in the abdominal or pelvic region which can be tender to touch and can have a slight pressure sensation. Some hernias don’t get diagnosed until a routine check. They can get more protruded when you cough or stand. The “no symptom” hernia is more common in women where they may not sense any pain if a hernia is in the inguinal region due to their wider pelvis and stretched wall. Other than a lump, you can have the aching and burning sensation in your groins, accompanied with pain, especially when you cough or do some physical activity and lift certain objects. You can have swelling on the surrounding area and a weakness sensation as well. The pain usually means a bad thing which can indicate the incarceration. This means that the opening of the wall is too narrow which constricts the content like a loop and it can cut the blood supply leading to necrosis of the tissue. It can also cause fever, vomiting, acid reflux, chest pain, ileus, and lead to a life-threatening condition which needs to be handled as soon as possible. If the hernias happen in children, they are often visible when the abdomen gets stretched like when crying or coughing.
How Is Hernia Diagnosed?
When you go to the doctor, he will surely examine you first where he will physically examine the regions that you complain about and try to palpate it and see your reaction to it. He will get the right information from your answers as well when he conveys the anamnesis.
If a hernia is in the abdomen region, like a hiatal hernia, the possible way to diagnose it is through an X-ray or endoscopy. X-ray can be useful with using a barium as a contrast which will show all the incarcerated parts and show if some of the intestines are strangulated. An endoscope with a camera on the end of the tube will show an intestine lining and see if some of the parts are tied to a knot. Other than these methods, doctors can sometimes use ultrasound for children which can create the image using sound waves and show on the screen the tissue inside the abdomen or umbilical region.
Treatment Of Hernia
Some hernias don’t even need the treatment and will subside on its own. It can depend on a size of the bulge and the associated symptoms.
- Lifestyle Changes. Some hernias just need to be monitored. A doctor will advise you to avoid heavy meals and excessive physical activity. Avoid lifting heavy objects and try to keep your weight in a healthy range which will prevent any complications.
- Medications. You can try using some over-the-counter medications for a pain relief or for accompanied symptoms like acid reflux. You can try with antacids, H-2 receptor blockers, and proton pump inhibitors.
- Herniorrhaphy. This is a procedure where a surgeon does a hernia repair. A doctor opens the hernia wall, pushes the protruding tissue back to its place and sews back the wall. It is often supported by a synthetic mesh for it not to occur again through the weakened wall.
- Laparoscopy. This is a procedure where a surgeon uses a tube with a small camera at the end called laparoscope. It uses a tiny opening on the abdomen wall to get inside the affected area, creating a small hole. The surgeon uses the tube to guide in the instruments and to repair a hernia, again inserting the mesh over the wall to secure it from not happening again. It is less invasive and it leaves less scarring on the skin area. Patients after laparoscopy recover faster and it can be used when the hernias are present on both sides of the abdomen (bilateral inguinal hernias).
Early spotted and fast treated hernia have the best outcome. Sometimes it can pass with a lifestyle change. It is important to prevent complications such as strangulation to avoid consequences that can be dangerous.