Approximately one in four men will develop a hernia at some point in their lives. In fact, men are up to ten times more likely to develop a hernia, although women are not immune to this condition, and pregnancy increases their risk. This makes information about hernia care and repair important to everyone.
A hernia occurs when an organ pushes through a hole in the tissue that holds it in place. One of the most common types is called an inguinal hernia, which is when part of the intestine pokes through a weak spot in the abdominal muscle.
While not usually a medical emergency, you should have a suspected hernia evaluated by a health care professional or surgeon. Hernias do not heal on their own, and if they are severe, complications can be serious and even deadly.
A weak spot in your abdominal wall can be something you are born with, or it may develop as you age.
Other risk factors include:
- straining regularly due to chronic constipation
- low birth weight
- a family history of hernias
- a previous hernia
- previous abdominal surgeries
They can also be triggered by certain events, such as heavy lifting or straining, or even excessive coughing.
Spotting a Hernia
A hernia typically appears as a bulge in the lower abdomen or groin area that you can see or feel. Symptoms may include a burning, aching sensation or a feeling of heaviness in the area.
If the bulge is dark red or purple, or you experience nausea, vomiting, fever, intense pain, or the inability to move your bowels, seek immediate medical care. You may have a strangulated hernia, which occurs when the protruding tissue gets twisted and loses blood supply. This can cause a bowel obstruction—a dangerous, life-threatening condition.
Hernia Care and Repair
Diagnosing a hernia involves a physical exam, medical and family history, and imaging, such as an abdominal ultrasound, CT scan or MRI.
If the hernia is small, you may not need surgical treatment, at least in the short term. We will likely recommend you wear a supportive garment to provide some relief from discomfort and refrain from activities, such as heavy lifting, that will cause the hernia to worsen.
If the hernia is large, or if a small hernia enlarges and worsens, surgery is necessary. During the surgery, the surgeon pushes the protruding tissue back into place and repairs the opening with a surgical mesh. Our surgeons use minimally invasive (laparoscopic) techniques for hernia repair whenever possible. This reduces recovery time and post-surgical discomfort, and means an overnight stay is generally not required.
Depending on several factors, including your age and general health status, recovery may take several weeks. You will need to avoid strenuous activity, including lifting anything heavier than a gallon of milk.
Our surgeons perform hundreds of hernia repair surgeries every year. They will be with you from diagnosis through surgery, recovery and follow up. If you suspect you have a hernia, or if you have already been diagnosed and need surgery, call us to schedule an appointment.