What Is A Hernia?

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Do you have a bulge or lump that causes discomfort when you stand up, bend over or cough? If you answered “yes,” you might have a hernia.

Hernias are common, painful nuisances that rarely improve on their own. However, if a hernia becomes too painful, your doctor can recommend surgery to prevent potentially dangerous complications.

“Hernias can cause life-threatening problems if left unfixed and require emergency surgery in some circumstances,” said Cianna Pender, MD, general surgeon at South Georgia Surgical Associates. “It’s important that you talk with your primary care physician or a surgeon so they can evaluate the problem and decide if surgery is the best solution.”

What are the symptoms of a hernia?

A hernia is an abnormal defect in the wall of your abdomen, groin, diaphragm or chest. It occurs when an organ or tissue squeezes through a weak spot in surrounding muscle.

The most common types of hernias are inguinal (inner groin), incisional (resulting from an incision), femoral (outer groin), umbilical (belly button) and hiatal (upper stomach).

Depending on the type of hernia, symptoms can include pain or discomfort in the affected area, acid reflux, chest pain, a burning or aching sensation at the site of the bulge, and even difficulty swallowing. In some cases, hernias can have no symptoms, and are not discovered until a routine physical or medical exam.

What causes a hernia?

“Hernias are caused by a combination of pressure and an opening or weakness of muscle,” said Dr. Pender. “Hernias can be congenital or acquired. If acquired, the hernia could happen due to a weakening of tissue, or as a result of trauma.”

Common causes of muscle weakness include: Failure of the abdominal wall to close properly in the womb, age, damage from injury or surgery and chronic coughing.

Many things can cause an increase in pressure resulting in a hernia, including: Strenuous activity, straining during bowel movements or urination, persistent coughing or sneezing, pregnancy and sudden weight gain. Additionally, obesity, poor nutrition and smoking can all weaken muscles and make hernias more likely.

How do you treat a hernia?

While hernias can cause discomfort, they can be fixed in a variety of ways.

“Open, laparoscopic and robotic surgical approaches can all be used to fix hernias,” said Dr. Pender. “Sometimes hernia repairs require reinforcement or replacement of weakened tissue muscle with mesh products.”

Archbold offers a variety of approaches when repairing the different types of hernias.

“We are the only hospital in the area that uses the daVinci Xi robot to repair complex and recurrent hernias,” said Dr. Pender. “This minimally invasive approach allows patients to recover faster, and typically have less pain.”

While hernias can be fixed surgically, there are steps you can take to reduce the amount of strain on your body and help avoid hernias or keep an existing one from getting worse. It’s recommended that patients stop smoking, see a doctor when you’re sick to avoid developing a persistent cough, maintain a healthy weight, lift heavy objects with your knees and not your back and avoid straining during bowel movements and urination.

It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of a hernia. With medical care and lifestyle changes, you can minimize the effects of a hernia and avoid complications.

If you think you have a hernia, call your primary care provider, or click here to find an Archbold primary care provider.