A hernia is a point where an organ, such as the intestines, protrude through the connective tissue that holds them in place. People can be born with congenital hernias or develop them later in life. Often hernias are painful and in some cases, they can cause serious problems. Most hernias won’t go away on their own and require surgery to repair.
Symptoms and Risks
Most people who go on to develop hernias are born with a predisposition that makes them more likely to develop hernias. However, anyone can develop a hernia, and some of the things that can make hernias more likely are:
- Lifting heavy objects
- Persistent coughing
The first symptom of a hernia is a small bulge, most commonly in the lower abdomen, which may be accompanied by a feeling of increased pressure, nausea and pain. You may notice the hernia more when you are exercising or having a bowel movement.
Common Types of Hernias
Inguinal hernias are the most common type of hernias. Inguinal hernias occur near the groin, or inguinal canal. Inguinal hernias are located between the abdomen and the scrotum that houses the spermatic cord. Although more common in men, women can also develop inguinal hernias. Surgery is required to fix inguinal hernias.
Epigastric hernias are located above the belly button and below the rib cage and are caused by a gap between the abdominal muscles. Epigastric hernias make up 2-3% of hernias. Babies can be born with them, and adults can develop them due to muscle weakness or straining. In some cases, these hernias are small and don’t cause symptoms. However, larger hernias require surgery.
Femoral hernias occur in the groin or inner thigh. They make up 2-4% of hernias. Women are more likely to experience femoral hernias than men, although men can have them, too. Femoral hernias can cause concern due to the femoral artery and vein nearby. Surgery is required to repair these hernias.
Hiatal hernias occur when the stomach bulges through a weakness in the diaphragm. Symptoms can include heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Surgery is usually only required for hiatal hernias if there are strong symptoms.
Umbilical hernias are located at the belly button. This type of hernia makes up around 10% of all abdominal hernias in adults. Umbilical hernias are also common in babies under six months old, as many as 20% of infants. They usually repair themselves by the time the child is five years old. If they don’t go away on their own, surgery may be required.
Incisional hernias can occur after surgery. 15 to 20% of people who undergo abdominal surgery go on to develop incisional hernias. Surgery may be required for larger incisional hernias.