Every organ in the human body has its own place and location, and any deviation from that location will usually result in some discomfort or, at the worst scenario, death. Such is the case of hernia, a common medical condition where the contents of a body cavity bulge out of the area where they are normally contained. The contents differ depending on where the hernia is, but usually, they are portions of intestine or abdominal tissue. They are usually enclosed in thin membranes that naturally line the inside of your cavity. Most hernias are asymptomatic; that is, they don’t have any direct symptoms. All have the risk of having their blood supply cut off, though, and hernias that have this become a medical emergency and will almost always need surgery to fix.
There are many types of hernias, and they’re mostly abdominal-related. The more common ones include:
- Femoral hernia. When abdominal contents such as intestines enter the femoral canal, a femoral hernia occurs. The femoral canal is the path through which the femoral artery, nerve, and vein leave the abdominal cavity and enter the thighs. The bulge caused by this hernia is located just below the inguinal crease. It occurs mostly in women and are particularly at risk of becoming strangulated since it can be irreducible.
- Umbilical hernia. Umbilical hernias are relatively common, making up 10-30% of the hernia cases. They are generally noted at birth as a protrusion of the umbilicus, more commonly known as a bellybutton. Usually, this type of hernia happens when an opening in the abdominal wall that normally closes before birth doesn’t close completely. Umbilical hernias can appear later in life or in women who have had—or are having—children.
- Inguinal hernia. Also known as groin hernia, it makes up 75% of all abdominal hernias and it occurs 25 times more often in men than in women. There are two different types of inguinal hernia: the direct and the indirect. While both occur in the groin area called the inguinal crease, they differ in origins. The distinction is important, serving as a clinical diagnosis.
- Indirect inguinal hernia. Indirect inguinal hernia descends from the abdomen down to your scrotum, and it follows the pathway the testicles made when the baby is still in development prebirth. The pathway normally closes just before birth, but it is still a possible place for a hernia. Anyone of any age can develop this type of hernia.
- Direct inguinal hernia. It occurs just slightly to the inside of the area where the indirect inguinal hernia occurs; the place has a naturally slightly thinner abdominal wall. It rarely protrudes into the scrotum, unlike the indirect inguinal hernia, and it occurs more frequently in middle-aged and elderly people, primarily because their abdominal walls get weaker as they grow older.
By and large, most hernias are primarily caused by an increased pressure within your abdomen, a pre-existing weak spot in the abdominal wall, or a combination of both. Examples of pressure include heavy lifting, obesity, straining (especially during bowel movements), and fluid in the abdominal cavity. Men are more likely to get hernias because of an inherent weakness unique to them during their development in the womb; during this time, the testicles form within the abdomen, but then slides down into the scrotum by way of the inguinal canal. Usually, after birth, the inguinal canal closes just enough to let the spermatic cord pass through, but not allow the testicles to go back into the abdomen. Sometimes, however, the canal doesn’t close properly, causing a weakened area. Pressure can cause some organs to push through, developing a hernia.
Getting Rid of Hernia
Hernia treatment is individualized for each person, and you should have a talk with your doctor first before undergoing any surgical or non-surgical treatment. In any case, the primary way to get rid of hernia, especially if its irreducible, is through surgery. There are two general types of hernia operations:
- Herniorrhapy. In this procedure, the surgeon makes an incision in your groin and then pushes the organ back to its original location. The weakened area is then repaired by sewing it back together. You may be encouraged to move about after the operation, but it will take several weeks before you can resume your normal activity.
- Hernioplasty. This is similar to patching a tire; your surgeon uses a synthetic mesh to cover the entire inguinal area as well as all possible hernial openings. The patch is usually secured via sutures or staples. While this type of surgical procedure can be done the conventional way, a newer method called laparascopic repair is also employed, where the surgeon inserts a fiber-optic tube and several miniature instruments into your abdomen through several small incisions. The operation is done using a video camera as a guide.
Prevention, as always, is the best cure. While you can’t prevent the congenital defect that may lead to inguinal hernia, you can take several steps to insure that strain on your abdominal muscles which can lead to hernias will be reduced. Some of these steps are:
- Maintaining a healthy weight. Obesity can lead to pressure in the abdominal area, increasing the risk of hernia. Decrease this risk by losing weight and body fat. Also, obesity can cause other health problems, so you would be doing yourself a great deal of favor by reducing or eliminating it.
- Avoiding lifting heavy objects. As much as possible, try not too lift very heavy things. If you have to, however, then always try to bend from your knees, and not the waist. Better yet, use a lift or some mechanical device.
- Avoid activities that cause you to strain often. Try not to apply pressure on your abdominal area. Cure any ailments that cause you to strain, such as constipation. Also, get enough fibers in your diet. Fibers help in easing the flow of wastes in your intestine, preventing both pressure and constipation.
Hernias can be very painful and, when left alone, can be fatal to your health. Have yourself checked by a doctor as soon as you feel any pain in your abdominal or groin area. Most of all, practice a healthy lifestyle and you will lessen the risk of getting this condition.