A hernia is the medical term used to describe when an organ or a section of fatty tissue squeezes through a weak spot in the surrounding muscle or connective tissue, which is known as fascia. Hernias are surprisingly common, and whilst in the majority of cases they are not harmful, it is still important that patients get them checked out by a professional.
How do you know if you are suffering from a hernia? Here are some of the most common types of hernia and the symptoms that you may experience if you were to be affected.
Around 3 in every 4 hernias are groin hernias of which there are two types. These are inguinal and femoral.
Inguinal groin hernias are by far the most common and occur when a small part of the intestine pushes through a weakness in the lower abdominal fascia and into an area of the groin called the inguinal canal. Inguinal hernias may or may not enter the inguinal canal.
The main indicator of an inguinal groin hernia is a lump where your thigh and groin meet. This may appear to disappear if you lie down, but it will be fairly obvious when you stand, strain or cough. It may cause you discomfort which worsens if you bend, cough or lift something heavy. It may not seem serious, but if not treated, this type of hernia can lead to serious and potentially deadly problems.
Femoral groin hernias are fairly rare and occur when the intestinal bulge enters the area of the groin known as the femoral canal. They are characterized by a lump around the crease of the groin or into the upper thigh. Again, this type of hernia can be painful although this is rare and, in many cases, patients may not realize that they are affected by a femoral hernia until they require emergency medical support.
A hiatus hernia occurs when part of the stomach pushed up into your chest by squeezing through a space in the diaphragm, which is the thin sheet of muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen. It isn’t known why some people develop a hiatus hernia, but pressure within the abdomen (such as that caused during pregnancy) and weakening of the diaphragm muscle are thought to be key contributors.
Hiatus hernias are often silent, meaning that they are very difficult to detect. There can be no noticeable symptoms and there is no external visible sign of the hernia. Some patients may experience heartburn, but many will not.
Umbilical hernias are the result of fatty tissue or a section of your bowel poking through your abdomen near your belly button. Whilst it is more common in babies, occurring if the opening in the abdomen that the umbilical cord passes through doesn’t seal properly after birth, it can also affect adults. This is thought to occur due to repeated strain on the abdomen.
Umbilical hernias rarely cause the patient any pain, but instead, just appear as a lump near or within the belly button. In the case of babies, many umbilical hernias will resolve themselves before the child reaches their first birthday. Umbilical hernias are not known to cause any health problems or complications and so can be safely left untreated.
Less common hernias
The following are hernias that can still occur, but that are less commonly seen and treated:
· Incisional hernias: this is where tissue pokes through a surgical wound in your abdomen that hasn’t fully healed.
· Epigastric hernias: the fatty tissue squeezes through an area between your belly button and the lower part of your breastbone.
· Muscle hernias: where part of a muscle squeezes through your abdomen. Muscle hernias affecting the legs are common sport’s injuries.
· Spigelian hernias: this is where part of the bowel pokes through the side of the abdominal muscle below the belly button.
Many hernia repairs can now be done laparoscopically, meaning that the surgery itself is less invasive and patients can recover more quickly.
For more information about hernias, please contact our surgical team who will be happy to answer any questions that you may have.