Hernias occur when the area of the muscle wall, membrane, or tissue that holds your internal organs in place becomes weak or opens. Once the weakened area or hole was large enough, part of the internal organs began to poke out from their protective area. Therefore, a hernia is analogous to a bag that has a small hole that allows whatever you put in, such as food or a can, to come out of the bag. Because hernias can occur for many different reasons, it’s important that you know how to check for hernias to prevent more serious complications.
Observing Different Types of Hernias
Check for hernias that appear around the abdomen, abdomen, or chest. Hernias can affect different areas of the body in different ways, although hernias in or around the abdominal area are probably the most common type of hernia. These hernias include:
A hiatal hernia affects the upper part of your abdomen. The hiatal is an opening in the diaphragm that separates the chest area from the abdomen. There are two types of hiatal hernia: sliding or paraesophageal. Hiatal hernias are more common in women than in men.
An epigastric hernia occurs when a small layer of fat forces its way out through the abdominal wall between the breastbone and the belly button. You can have more than one of these hernias at a time. Although epigastric hernias are often asymptomatic, they may need to be treated with surgery.
An incisional hernia occurs when improper postoperative abdominal care causes the surgical scar to swell. Often, the suture layers of the scar don’t fit properly and the intestine slips out of the suture layers, causing a hernia.
Umbilical hernias are common in infants. When a baby cries, the lump around the belly button area usually sticks out.
Know the type of hernia that affects the groin area. Hernias can also affect the groin, pelvis, or thighs when the intestines break out of its protective lining, causing an uncomfortable and sometimes painful lump in the area.
An inguinal hernia affects the groin area, and occurs when part of the small intestine breaks through the lining of the stomach. Sometimes surgery is needed to treat an inguinal hernia, as complications can lead to a life-threatening situation.
A femoral hernia affects the upper thigh, just below the groin. While it may not be painful, it looks like a bulge in your upper thigh. Like hiatal hernias, femoral hernias are more common in women than in men.
Anal hernia occurs when tissue protrudes around the anal membrane. Anal hernias are rare. These hernias are often mistaken for hemorrhoids.
Understand other types of hernias. Hernias can affect areas other than the abdomen and groin region. In particular, the following hernias can cause health problems for a person:
A herniated disc occurs when a disc in your spine bulges out and begins to pinch a nerve. The discs around the spine are shock absorbers, but they can dislodge due to injury or disease, resulting in a herniated disc.
Intracranial hernias occur inside the head. This hernia occurs when brain tissue, fluid, and blood vessels shift from their usual position in the skull. If a hernia within the skull occurs near the brainstem area, then this hernia needs to be treated immediately.
Investigate possible symptoms or signs of a hernia. Hernias can be caused by a number of different factors. Once the cause has emerged, a hernia may be painful or painless. Look for the following symptoms, especially for hernias located in the abdomen or groin area:
You notice swelling where it hurts. The swelling is usually on the surface of an area such as the thigh, stomach or groin.
The swelling may or may not be painful; hernias that protrude but are painless are common.
A bulge that flattens if you press on it requires prompt medical attention; a bulge that does not flatten when pressed requires immediate medical attention.
You may experience pain ranging from severe to mild discomfort. A common symptom of a hernia is pain when you strain. If you experience pain while doing any of the following activities, you may have a hernia:
Lifting heavy objects
Cough or sneeze
Exercising or exerting energy
Your pain gets worse towards the end of the day. Pain due to a hernia often gets worse at the end of the day, or after standing for a long time.
Check with a doctor to confirm a hernia. Doctors name some hernias “trapped” or “pinched,” meaning that the organ has lost its blood supply or is blocking the flow of the intestine. This hernia requires immediate medical attention.
Make an appointment with the doctor. Be sure to tell your doctor about any symptoms you are experiencing.
Have a physical examination. The doctor will check to see if the area will increase in size when you lift, bend or cough.
Know what increases a person’s risk of developing a hernia. Why do hernias affect more than 5 million Americans? Hernias can occur for various reasons. The following are some of the factors that increase the risk of developing a hernia:
Genetic influences: If your parents had a hernia, you are more likely to develop a hernia.
Age: The older you are, the higher your chances of developing a hernia.
Pregnancy: During pregnancy, the mother’s abdomen becomes stretched, which makes hernias more likely.
Sudden weight loss: People who lose weight suddenly have an increased risk of developing a hernia.
Obesity: People who are overweight have a higher chance of developing a hernia compared to people who are not overweight.
Whooping cough: Coughing puts a lot of pressure and tension on the stomach, which can possibly lead to a hernia.