Note: This article was written by a hernia sufferer who wishes to remain anonymous. He waited before getting a hernia repaired and wishes he would have listened to his general surgeon in the first place. Hernias don’t typically get better on their own. If you suspect hernia, be sure to see your physician for a medical evaluation. Take care of yourself!
What You Need to Know About the Types of Hernias
Have you noticed a lump or a bulge that comes and goes? Do you feel an ache and/or discomfort in the affected area when you bend over, when you bear down, cough, or when lift something heavy?
Those are symptoms of a hernia.
Don’t make the mistake of waiting for it to get worse before seeking an evaluation. In this article, I’ll share with you some of what I’ve discovered about the causes of hernias, the types of hernias, and the treatment for hernias.
What is a hernia?
A hernia is a hole or weakness in the fascia, which is the strong connective tissue that surrounds muscle. The inner lining of the abdominal cavity (the peritoneal lining) can protrude or herniate through the hole, the hernia defect. Structures from within the abdominal cavity can then slide into the hernia sack through the defect. This can include fat or, far more of a concern, intestine.
Types of hernia
There are a number of natural weak spots in our body that are typical places for hernias to form. These tend to be small openings to allow organs, blood supply, nerves or other structures to route through.
The inguinal hernia is the most common type. It accounts for about 70% of all hernias. An inguinal hernia happens when the natural opening, the internal ring, stretches larger or tears. This creates the hernia defect in the fascia, allowing the peritoneal lining to balloon through the hole. There is now the potential for intestine to slide into the hernia sac.
The inguinal hernia happens more often in males than females. The reason for this is that after birth, the testicles descend, moving through the inguinal canal. This canal nearly completely closes afterward. However, sometimes the internal ring of the inguinal canal doesn’t properly close, leaving a weak spot which becomes prone to an inguinal hernia.
With a hiatal hernia, a portion of the stomach slides into the chest through the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a muscle sheet that assists the body to breathe through contractions that deliver air to the lungs. Also, the diaphragm divides the body’s chest cavity from the abdominal cavity to separate the organs.
A hiatal hernia commonly happens to people who are over fifty years old. Children who have a hernia in the diaphragm have this condition because of a congenital defect. The hiatal hernia is associated with gastroesophageal reflux. This reflux causes the contents of the stomach to leak back into the esophagus, creating a burning sensation.
Umbilical hernias happen in babies and children. With this kind of hernia, the intestines swell through the wall of the abdomen which is near the belly button. It becomes especially noticeable when the child is crying.
A umbilical hernia is the only type of hernia that typically goes away on its own. However, if the hernia does not go away by about age one, surgery may be necessary. An umbilical hernia can also occur in an adult. These tend not to go away and typically do require surgery.
Incisional hernia (or ventral hernia)
This type of hernia can happen when a person has gone through abdominal surgery. The intestines may move through the area of the previous incision scar, which is a weakened tissue.
Be sure to make all of your follow-up visits after surgery. Your physician will check to be sure the wound is healing properly.
Other types of hernia include femoral hernias, epigastric hernias, and spigelian hernias.
Is surgery the only treatment for hernia?
Other than umbilical hernias in children, hernias don’t get better on their own. Some people do choose a ‘wait and see’ approach in order to avoid hernia surgery, but there are risks involved with that approach.
Always seek medical advice.
It is possible to manage a hiatal hernia with a combination of medicine, changes in diet, changes in lifestyle, and weight control… but to correct a hernia does require surgery.
What is the risk of having a hernia?
Hernias have a tendency to do one of three things:
- They can get larger as the defect stretches larger and more intestine protrudes through
- They can cause discomfort and sometimes pain.
- They can end up as an “incarcerated hernia”
The most worrisome thing that can occur with a hernia is that something gets trapped in the hernia. This is called “incarceration.” This can lead to the a pinching off of the blood flow of whatever is trapped, this is call “strangulation.” If a hernia every becomes trapped, that is a surgical emergency.
What you need to know about hernias – wrapping it up
Some things just don’t go away on their own, and that is the case with hernias. If you are experiencing symptoms of a hernia, let your physician know.
If hernia is suspected, you’ll then get a consult with a general surgeon for evaluation and the development of a treatment plan.
Once the hernia is closed, you should feel better and be able to resume activities you couldn’t do before because of the hernia.
Hernias that become trapped can lead to strangulation of tissue and become life-threatening. Never take a chance on your health. Hernias most often require help from a general surgeon.