Hernias 101: The Basics

What Is A Hernia?

The wall of muscle that keeps the internal organs in place is called the peritoneum. If the peritoneum becomes damaged with a hole or tear or if it is weakened, it will allow organs to bulge through, or herniate.

What Are The Different Kind Of Hernias?

A hernia located in the groin can be either a femoral hernia or an inguinal hernia. A femoral hernia is more common in women, and it presents as a bulge in the area where the hip and groin meet. An inguinal hernia is more common in men, and the bulge is located next to the pubic bone. This can also affect the testicles in males.

A hiatal hernia occurs in the upper abdomen. The upper part of the stomach pushes out from a defect in the diaphragm. A hiatal hernia is most common in older adults.

An umbilical hernia occurs when the bulge in located around the belly button. These most often occur in babies. Hernias can also occur in areas where there was previous surgery, which is called an incisional hernia.

What Are The Treatment Options For A Hernia?

Not every hernia needs to be treated. If it isn't causing any pain or if it isn't located in an area where complications frequently arise, it is usually just left alone. A femoral hernia may be caused by childbirth, heavy lifting, chronic constipation, or being overweight. A small femoral hernia is usually just left alone. If it is at risk of strangulating part of the intestines, it will require surgical repair. Any sudden pain around the hernia coupled with nausea and vomiting can indicate it has become strangulated and will require emergency surgery. An inguinal hernia may be caused by chronic constipation or obesity, but it may just be a result of heredity or being male. It may be left alone, or surgery may be done. Depending on the severity of the hernia, your physician will either recommend a herniorrhaphy, which is a normal surgery, requiring an open incision into the abdomen to repair the inguinal canal and put things back in place, or a laparoscopic repair. Laparoscopy is surgery that is performed through a small scope and has less recovery time.

Hiatal hernias are most frequently caused by aging, smoking, and obesity. Most hiatal hernias don't cause any severe symptoms. Mild acid reflux and heartburn may occasionally result, which can be treated with over-the-counter medications.

An umbilical hernia is often present at birth, especially in premature babies. It may be left alone to give it the chance to repair on its own, but if it is still present when the child is four, it will need to be surgically repaired.

For more information on hernia surgery, contact a doctor such as Michael A. Goldfarb MD FACS.