A hernia is a sac formed by the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneum). The sac comes through a hole or weak area in the strong layer of the belly wall that surrounds the muscle. This layer is called the fascia.
Which type of hernia you have depends on where it is:
- Femoral hernia is a bulge in the upper thigh, just below the groin. This type is more common in women than men.
- Hiatal hernia occurs in the upper part of the stomach. Part of the upper stomach pushes into the chest.
- Incisional hernia can occur through a scar if you have had abdominal surgery in the past.
- Umbilical hernia is a bulge around the belly button. It occurs when the muscle around the belly button does not close completely after birth.
- Inguinal hernia is a bulge in the groin. It is more common in men. It may go all the way down into the scrotum.
Usually, there is no clear cause of a hernia. Sometimes, hernias can occur due to:
- Heavy lifting
- Straining while using the toilet
- Any activity that raises the pressure inside the belly
Hernias may be present at birth, but the bulge may not be evident until later in life. Some people have a family history of hernias.
Babies and children can get hernias. It happens when there is weakness in the belly wall. Inguinal hernias are common in boys. Some children do not have symptoms until they are adults.
Any activity or medical problem that increases pressure on the tissue in the belly wall and muscles may lead to a hernia, including:
- Long-term (chronic) constipation and pushing hard (straining) to have a bowel movement
- Chronic coughing or sneezing
- Cystic fibrosis
- Enlarged prostate, straining to urinate
- Extra weight
- Fluid in the abdomen (ascites)
- Peritoneal dialysis
- Poor nutrition
- Undescended testicles
There are usually no symptoms. Some people have discomfort or pain. The discomfort may be worse when standing, straining, or lifting heavy objects. In time, the most common complaint is a bump that is sore and growing.
When a hernia gets bigger, it may get stuck inside the hole and lose its blood supply. This is called strangulation. This causes pain and swelling at the site of strangulation. Symptoms may include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Not being able to pass gas or have bowel movements
When this occurs, surgery is needed right away.
Our comprehensive hernia program treats patients with hernias of all types. We apply open, laparoscopic, and robotic surgical techniques along with enhanced recovery methods to get patients home sooner and back to their best.
To prevent a hernia:
- Use proper lifting techniques.
- Lose weight if you are overweight.
- Relieve or avoid constipation by eating plenty of fiber, drinking lots of fluid, going to the bathroom as soon as you have the urge, and exercising regularly.
- Men should see their provider if they strain with urination. This may be a symptom of an enlarged prostate.