Surgical Clinic, PC

What is a Hernia?

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What is a Hernia?

Types and Symptoms of Hernias that can be treated at Surgical Clinic, PC.

A hernia is a defect in a connective-tissue layer that seperates one part of the body from another.  For instance, a hernia can occur when part of the intestine protrudes through a weak spot in the abdominal wall; the weak spot might be present at birth or develop later in life due to aging, injury, abdominal surgery, straining or heavy lifting, or, for smokers, constant coughing.

Types of Hernias

At the Surgical Clinic, all of the surgeons are experienced in treating patients with various hernias.  The most common hernia that we treat is an inguinal hernia, in which part of the abdominal tissue pushes out through the groin and causes a bulge.  A type of hernia that occurs in the lower abdomen is called a femoral hernia, in which abdominal tissue pushes through the wall of the femoral canal that carries blood vessels into the thigh.

Another common type of hernia is an umbilical hernia where part of the small intestine passes through the abdominal wall near the navel.  Common in newborns, it also commonly afflicts obese women or those who have had many children.  We also see patients with a hiatal hernia which happens when the upper stomach squeezes through the hiatus, an opening in the diaphragm through which the esophagus passes.

While a hernia itself is not neccessarily dangerous, it can lead to serious complications if its contents become trapped, or incarcerated, in the abdominal wall.  If the hernia is trapped and doesn't return to place with a gentle push, it may become strangulated, which means blood flow is cut off to the tissue that's trapped.  When this occurs, it can become a life-threatening emergency.

Symptoms of a hernia include:

  • Bulge in lower abdomen
  • Pain or burning at the site
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Abdominal bloating

What Causes Hernias?

Ultimately, all hernias are caused by a combination of pressure and an opening or weakness of muscle or fascia; the pressure pushes an organ or tissue through the opening or weak spot.  Sometimes the muscle weakness is present at birth, more often, it occurs later in life.

Anything that causes an increase in pressure in the abdomen can cause a hernia, including:

  • Lifting heavy objects without stabilizing the abdominal muscles
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Persisten coughing or sneezing

In addition, obesity, poor nutrition, and smoking can all weaken muscles and make hernias more likely.

A hernia won't improve on its own, so it;s important to have it evaluated by a health care provider.  Hernias are traditionally easier to fix when smaller and their risk of coming back are much lower.

For more information about hernia treatment options, please contact Surgical Clinic, PC.

When you need expert surgical care, close to home...Surgical Clinic, PC.