Hernia Facts You Need to Know

A hernia develops when an internal organ protrudes outside the tissues or muscles that should support it. It commonly occurs in the abdominal cavity or the area between the chest and hips. Characterized by a soft lump in the groin or belly, a hernia appears as a bulge or a protrusion as it pushes through the wall of the muscles that are supposed to contain it.

If you press onto the lump or lie down, you might feel your hernia subsiding. You might also feel some discomfort or pain in the area with a hernia when you cough or lift heavy items.

Table of Contents

  • 1 Prevalence of Hernia Repairs
  • 2 Most Common Types of Hernia
    • 2.1 1. Inguinal Hernia (groin area)
    • 2.2 2. Femoral Hernia (below the groin area)
    • 2.3 3. Incisional Hernia (on a surgical wound)
    • 2.4 4. Umbilical Hernia (belly button area)
    • 2.5 5. Hiatal Hernia (below the breastbone)
  • 3 Complications of Hernia

Prevalence of Hernia Repairs

Doctors perform 20 million hernia repairs on average every year, with 700,000 cases done in the United States. A significant percentage of these cases happen in men, although women can also develop the condition.

Within a decade of study from 2001 to 2010, women above 65 underwent emergency hernia repair at an average of 24 per 100,000 people, while men had hernia surgery at an average of 32 per 100,000 people.

Most Common Types of Hernia

1. Inguinal Hernia (groin area)

An inguinal hernia comprises 70 percent of hernia cases. Among men, an inguinal hernia happens in the spermatic cord that leads to the testicles. Among women, it occurs around the ligaments in the womb. In children, an inguinal hernia develops because of weak abdominal walls.

The symptoms of an inguinal hernia include:

  • Bulging in the pubic bone that becomes prominent as you sit or cough

  • Pain and discomfort in the groin when you cough, bend over or lift things

  • Some pressure or sensation in the groin

  • Burning sensation in the groin

  • Constant crying and irritability in children

  • Swelling of the testicles

2. Femoral Hernia (below the groin area)

Older women are more prone to a femoral hernia. It occurs when fatty tissues protrude to the groin and atop the inner thigh as a result of a strain in the abdomen. It’s linked to constipation and obesity.

The symptoms of a femoral hernia include:

  • Difficulty in urination

  • The appearance of a lump in the upper thigh or groin

  • Some weakness in the legs

3. Incisional Hernia (on a surgical wound)

A prior surgery might result in muscle weakness, and if the incision site does not heal properly, it can leave a small gap where internal tissues might poke or protrude. If you’ve gained weight or become pregnant within three to six months after an abdominal surgery, then your risk for an incisional hernia is higher.

The symptoms of an incisional hernia include:

  • Bulging around the surgical wound, especially when lying down

  • Continuous enlargement of the bulge if not addressed immediately

  • Some pain and discomfort

  • Some nausea or vomiting

  • Abdominal swelling

  • Diarrhea

4. Umbilical Hernia (belly button area)

Umbilical hernia cases are higher in newborns and babies as the abdominal wall muscles around the belly button hasn’t completely healed. Some 20 percent of babies have this condition but it can also occur among adults. Older people can develop an umbilical hernia due to conditions that put pressure on their abdomen such as obesity, chronic cough, enlarged prostate, constipation, and ascites or an excess in abdominal fluid.

The symptoms of an umbilical hernia include:

  • Bulging or protrusion that grows over time

  • Painful lump or growth

  • Tenderness in the abdomen

  • Redness in the abdomen

  • Fever

  • Nausea and vomiting

5. Hiatal Hernia (below the breastbone)

A hiatal hernia occurs when the stomach bulges up to the chest and presses the opening in the hiatus found near the diaphragm. Factors that affect this condition include pregnancy, obesity, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

The symptoms of a hiatal hernia include:

  • Heartburn or chest pain

  • Burping

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Unusual saliva formation in the mouth

Symptoms usually appear worse after eating a large meal or when lying down flat on the back.

Complications of Hernia

Should you have surgery if diagnosed with a hernia? Some might consider delaying the fix, especially if your hernia isn’t bothersome. Depending on your condition, doctors might recommend surgical repair to prevent complications. While recovering from a surgery, you may also wear a truss for a hernia that provides adequate support and relieves pain.

A hernia that does not get fixed might lead to incarceration wherein the protruding tissues become stuck, leading to severe pain and bowel obstruction. An untreated hernia might also lead to tissue strangulation, which cuts the blood flow to the tissues. A dead tissue can cause life-threatening issues, prompting doctors to perform an emergency surgery.

Discuss your case with your doctors to best address how treatment must be done. You might also need to make dietary changes or take temporary medications after surgery.

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