A hernia is what happens when muscle strain or weakness causes the muscle to separate, allowing soft tissue to push through the opening. They typically happen in the abdomen (belly) or groin, and they can be very painful.
The most common symptom of a hernia is a lump or bulge in the groin or abdomen. The lump may go away when you lie down, and the area around the lump will also be very tender. Often, however, hernias have no symptoms. They may not be found until you undergo a medical exam for an unrelated issue.
If you have a hernia, it is important to have it diagnosed and treated quickly. There are several types of hernias, including inguinal, umbilical, femoral, epigastric, and hiatal.
This is when the intestines or soft tissues protrude into the groin through the top of the inner thigh, typically on the right side. This is the most common type of hernia, and it occurs in men more often than women.
It may form over a period of weeks or months, or it might appear suddenly after lifting something heavy or after a cough or laugh. The chances of an inguinal hernia increase with age and are most common in people aged 75-80.
This type of hernia occurs when tissues or intestines breach the muscle surrounding the belly button. 10% of all hernias in the stomach are umbilical. Umbilical hernias often occur in infants, but they usually heal on their own by the time the child is 1 year old.
In adults, umbilical hernias tend to get bigger with time. They typically need medical intervention in order to heal properly.
This kind of hernia is similar to an inguinal hernia in that the intestines or soft tissue infiltrate the groin at the top of the inner thigh, usually just below the groin crease. However, they are much less common than inguinal hernias and mostly occur in older women instead of in older men. Femoral hernias may be difficult to diagnose, as they may be too small to feel.
This hernia appears in the upper abdominal region (aka the epigastric region), which is located below the ribcage but above the belly button. This generally occurs when fatty tissue breaks through the abdominal wall, and it’s possible to have more than one epigastric hernia at a time. These usually don’t have symptoms.
This occurs when a portion of the stomach breaks through a weak place in the diaphragm (the muscle between the lungs and the digestive system). These hernias can cause problems with acid reflux, and they can cause symptoms like chest pain, heartburn, and difficulty swallowing (dysphagia).
Approximately 95% of hiatal hernias are classified as type 1, which means that the stomach remains in place, but the place where the esophagus meets the stomach shifts above the diaphragm.
What are risk factors for a hernia?
Hernias are most common in people who are:
- Overweight or obese
- Have chronic constipation
- Strain when lifting heavy objects
How serious is a hernia?
While most hernias are not life-threatening, they are painful, limit physical activity, and will not simply resolve themselves.
What type of hernia is the most severe?
A hernia in one location is typically not more dangerous than in another location, but the danger surfaces when the hernia becomes incarcerated or strangulated.
An incarcerated hernia occurs when the soft tissue can’t be moved back into its correct place, creating steady discomfort and pressure.
When a hernia becomes strangulated, the organ or soft tissue protruding through the muscle is cut off from its blood supply, creating an emergency situation.
If a hernia is suspected, a useful nonsurgical diagnostic tool is an upper GI endoscopy, also called an EGD (esophagogastroduodenoscopy). A narrow, flexible tube with a tiny camera will be passed down your esophagus and through the upper part of your digestive system so that a qualified physician can properly diagnose the hernia.
See a doctor at Digestive Health Centers to Ensure Happy Digestive Health
Staying healthy is important now more than ever. If you think you may be suffering from a hernia, Digestive Health Centers of Texas can help.
Contact us today to book an appointment with one of our board-certified gastroenterologists, who can used advanced endoscopic technology for hernia diagnosis and treatment.