A hernia is a condition characterized by the abnormal exit of tissue or an organ through the wall of the cavity in which it normally resides. In most instances, hernias tend to develop somewhere between the chest and hips.
Types of hernia
There are many different types of hernia that can occur, with some being more common than others.
- Inguinal hernias. These are by far the most common type of hernia and affect predominantly males, particularly those aged 40 and over. They occur when fatty tissue or an area of the bowel pushes through into your groin at the top of your inner thigh.
- Femoral hernias. More likely to affect women than men, femoral hernias also happen when fatty tissue or a part of your bowel pokes through into the inner upper part of the thigh or groin. Again, related to advancing age, and also increased stress on the stomach, around 1 in 20 hernias is a femoral hernia.
- Hiatus hernia. This type of hernia occurs when part of the stomach pushed up into your chest by squeezing through an opening in the diaphragm.
What causes hernias?
Although there are different types of hernia, they are all caused by a combination of pressure and a weakness or opening in the muscle or fascia. This allows either an organ or tissue to push through the opening or weak area and create a bulge. In some instances, the muscle weakness may be present at birth, while other patients may develop a weakness later in life. When this happens it is usually caused by:
- Repeated lifting, particularly heavy objects, without stabilizing the abdominal muscles.
- Persistent coughing or sneezing.
- Persistent diarrhea or constipation.
Poor nutrition, smoking tobacco, and obesity can also contribute towards weakening abdominal muscles.
Symptoms of a hernia
The exact symptoms of a hernia will depend on the type of hernia that you have. In the case of an inguinal hernia, which is the most common, you may experience problems such as:
- Pain or discomfort in the affected area, particular when coughing, lifting or bending/twisting.
- Pressure or a feeling of heaviness or weakness in the abdominal area.
- Pressure or dragging sensation in your groin.
- A bulge in the area on either side of your pubic bone, which may be more obvious when you are upright.
- Swelling around the testicles when the protruding tissue descends into the scrotum.
Nevertheless, not all inguinal hernias cause noticeable symptoms.
Symptoms of a femoral hernia are usually difficult to spot, especially if the hernia is small. However, if it is large then a noticeable bulge may be evident in the area around where your groin meets your upper thigh.
Similarly, smaller hiatus hernias may go unnoticed, but larger hiatus hernias can cause much more obvious symptoms, including:
- Regurgitation of food/liquid into the mouth
- Acid reflux
- Problems swallowing
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in the chest or abdomen
Severe hernia symptoms that indicate you need emergency medical attention
In some instances, an inguinal or femoral hernia may obstruct your intestines. If this happens, it is referred to as strangulation, a condition which causes intestinal or bowel tissues to die. Strangulation is very serious, and you will need emergency medical attention otherwise it could prove fatal.
Symptoms of strangulation include:
- Severe stomach pain
- Sudden groin pain
However, if you suspect that you have any type of hernia and you are experiencing worrying symptoms, it is always best to arrange an appointment with one of our laparoscopic surgeons at Laparoscopic Surgical Center of New York today at (646) 859-1400.