What is a Hernia?
A hernia occurs when the inside layers of the abdominal wall weaken then bulge or tear. The inner lining of the abdomen pushes through the weakened area to form a balloon - like sac. This, in turn, can cause a loop of intestine or abdominal tissue to slip into the sac, causing pain and other potentially serious health problems. Men and women of all ages can have hernias. Hernias usually occur either because of a natural weakness in the abdominal wall or from excessive strain on the abdominal wall, such as the strain from heavy lifting, substantial weight gain, persistent coughing, or difficulty with bowel movements or urination. Eighty percent of all hernias are located near the groin. Hernias may also occur below the groin (femoral), through the navel (umbilical), and along a previous incision (incisional or ventral).
Treating a Hernia Yourself
Some people will try trusses (hernia belts) to treat their hernias themselves. These devices may help to temporarily relieve symptoms, but they do not take care of the underlying problem. Hernias never heal without surgery. Trusses worn over long periods of time can cause scarring inside the hernia sac and make repair that much more difficult or dangerous. For more information on hernias please see the National Institutes of Health website.
Symptoms of Hernias
- A noticeable protrusion in the groin area or in the abdomen
- Feeling pain while lifting
- A dull aching sensation
- A vague feeling of fullness
If you develop a painful bulge in the abdominal wall or groin that won't go away when you lie down and that is accompanied by generalized abdominal pain, nausea, bloating, you should get in to see your family physician or emergency room right away. These are symptoms of intestine trapped in the hernia that can possibly lead to gangrene.
When to seek Medical Advice
If you think you have a hernia, you should see your family physician. They will examine you and if you do in fact have a hernia you should consult with a surgeon. The surgeon will be best able to advise you on what type of repair is best for your situation. Rarely, hernias can be observed over time without being repaired. This is usually in cases where the risks of an operation are just too high.