Hernia – Causes, Risk Factors And Treatment – Hernia is a common medical condition that presents as a localized bulge due to an organ pushing through an opening in the muscle or tissue. This normally occurs in the abdomen, but can also occur in upper thigh, belly area and groin areas. This occurs when there is a weakness or a hole in the muscular wall that packs or keeps the abdominal organs. Hernias are easy to diagnose. They are usually not a life threatening condition, but do not resolve on their own and require surgery to avoid potential complications. There are different types of hernia and certain types are more prone at a particular age.
Types Of Hernia
- INGUINAL HERNIA – commonest type. This happens when the intestines push through a weak spot in the lower abdominal wall or inguinal canal.
- HIATAL HERNIA – this happens when a part of your stomach bulges through the diaghram into the chest area. Common in patients over 50 years of age.
- UMBLICAL HERNIA – happens in children below 6 months of age. This happens when intestines protrude through abdominal wall near the umbilicus. This is the only hernia that resolves on its own.
- INCISIONAL HERNIA – happens after an abdominal surgery, at the sit of the incision.
Causes Of Hernia
Hernias occur because of a combination of factors which are muscle weakness, laxity and straining of the abdominal wall. They either develop suddenly or take a long time to progress.
Factors that cause muscle weakness are:
- Congenital defect wherein there is failure of abdominal wall to close
- Chronic coughing
- Any recent surgery or injury
Factors that cause strain to your body more so if your muscles are weak:
- Pregnancy puts pressure on your abdomen
- Chronic constipation
- Heavy weight lifting
- Fluid collection in the abdomen
- Sudden gain in weight
Risk Factors That Can Make You Prone To Hernia
- Family history of hernias
- Past history of hernias
- Chronic coughing
- Chronic constipation
- Being obese
- Chain smoker that can trigger smokers cough
- A medical condition such as cystic fibrosis which impairs functioning of lungs thereby causes chronic coughing.
Presentation Of Hernia
Most common symptom is a bulge or lump at the affected area. This is more so felt when you are standing.
Inguinal Hernia may also show symptoms such as:
- Pain or discomfort while walking, coughing or bending.
- Weakness, pressure or a feeling of heaviness in the abdomen.
- Burning or aching sensation at the affected site.
Hiatal hernias that occur in the chest may show these symptoms:
- Acid reflux causing a burning sensation in the throat and chest.
- Chest pain.
- Difficulty in swallowing.
Many hernias lack any obvious symptoms and are diagnosed merely on a general physical examination.
Treatment For Hernia
The only treatment option that provides permanent relief is surgery. Hernia repair surgery is a very common surgery performed worldwide. There are usual two approaches for surgeries which are:
- Open surgery-an incision is made in the skin near the protrusion and surgeon pushes back the hernia through his cut.
- Laparoscopic surgery-this is also known as minimal invasive surgery. In this surgery, two cuts lesser than an inch in size are made so that instruments and optic camera can be inserted. The surgeon can now view inside the abdomen through this camera. The abdomen is inflated with gas enabling the surgeon space to work. Once the hernia is repaired, the gas is released and the abdomen returns to normal.
In both the methods, the hernia is pushed and placed back into proper position and the weak tissue wall is strengthened or reinforced with a synthetic mesh to prevent the reoccurrence of the hernia. This mesh provides a bridge and allows for connecting the gap in the tissue. Surgeons perform many such simple procedures which offer no pain and discomfort to the patient. These techniques ensure minimal post operative discomfort and speedy recoveries.
Other Treatment Options
- dietary changes can help avoid symptoms of hiatal hernia
- Do not eat heavy meals
- Do not bend immediately after eating a heavy meal
- Do not lie down immediately after meals
Certain medicines can be prescribed for hiatal hernia, if there is severe acid reflux i.e. antacids and proton pump inhibitors.
The prognosis of most cases of hernia is very good. The most important aspect is to recognize early signs and provide prompt treatment as an untreated hernia can cause complications in the future.