What is a hernia? Symptoms, causes and treatment
Most Indians are concerned and well-informed about cardiac and arthritic conditions. While, surprisingly, the incidence rate of hernia is on a rise in the Indian population. More than 1 million Indians experience this ailment annually. A hernia is a common condition that often leads to the use of surgery for treatment. It is essential to learn about what is a hernia when the prevalence is so alarming.
In this article, Dr Mayank Madan, a leading general surgeon in Gurgaon, talks about what is hernia disease, its causes and treatment options.
What is a hernia?
A hernia is a condition that leads to the formation of an abnormal localised bulge of body organs or muscle tissues. This bulge pushes through the muscles that have been holding it in its original place.
A hernia is not a fatal condition. However, it can cause major levels of discomfort. Severe cases lead to other health complications associated with hernia. A hernia can occur anywhere between your chest and your groin. Most often, it appears on the abdomen and upper thighs.
There are several different types of hernias. Most common types include:
- Inguinal hernia – This is the most common type of hernia in men. In an inguinal hernia, a bulge appears on the sides of the pubic bone. It happens when tissues such as parts of the intestine push through weak spots of muscles in the abdomen. Inguinal hernia in men is the most common type.
- Femoral hernia – Femoral hernia in women mostly affects women in their old age. Similar to an inguinal hernia, it happens when part of the intestine protrudes through weak abdominal muscles. Hernia symptoms in women include a burning sensation in the bulge, pain and discomfort in groin and more.
- Umbilical hernia – An umbilical hernia appears near the navel. It can affect a person at any age. However, umbilical hernia in children does not cause any pain.
- Hiatal hernia – Hiatal hernia happens when part of the abdomen bulges through the diaphragm into the chest cavity. It may cause moderate to severe pain in the abdomen and the chest.
The other uncommon forms of hernia are incisional, epigastric, spigelian and diaphragmatic hernia.
What is hernia disease symptoms?
A hernia, as mentioned above, appears in the form of a bulge. Depending on the contents of hernia and its location, it may disappear when you are lying down.
The bulge can be seen and felt. It aggravates when you cough, bend or put any pressure on the specific body part. Besides a visibly abnormal bulge, pain and discomfort are the symptoms associated with this condition.
Specific types of hernia can lead to more narrowed down symptoms such as chest pain, difficulty in swallowing, heartburn and more.
What causes hernia?
One of the fundamental causes of hernia is muscle weakness. A muscular wall keeps the abdominal organs in place. When muscles responsible for holding these organs and tissues in place become weak, they lose their strength resulting in a hernia.
The chances of occurrence of hernia increase with age as muscles tend to lose their tone and become lax. There are several reasons why muscles strain and become weak leading to hernia. Sometimes a weak muscle is present since birth and causes a gradual development of a hernia problem.
The most common causes of hernia include:
- Congenital heart conditions
- Chronic coughing
- Lifting heavy objects
- Presence of fluid in the abdomen
- Damage from an injury or surgical procedure
The above-given factors can impact anyone at any age since muscle straining can be caused irrespective of age and gender. However, some people are more likely to be affected by this condition than others. Your risk of developing hernia problem increase if:
- You have a family history of the disease
- You suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
- You have cystic fibroisis
- You are a heavy smoker
- You were born prematurely
What are hernia treatment options?
A hernia problem is easily diagnosed with the help of a physical exam. Your healthcare provider will simply need to feel and analyse the bulge. Your doctor will evaluate your condition based on the information you provide regarding the severity of your symptoms.
Your doctor will ask you the first time you noticed a hernia, the kind of pain and discomfort it had been causing you, your lifestyle habits, your family history of the disease and your personal medical history.
If your doctor may suspect the need for additional screening tests to evaluate the location and contents of hernia properly. The additional tests include abdominal ultrasounds, CT scans, MRI, endoscopy and more.
Sometimes hernia problem can subside on its own. However, most of the times, it requires surgical intervention. If you have mild symptoms, your healthcare provider may suggest watchful waiting as a treatment protocol. Your condition will be monitored consistently and you will offer pain relief support.
If your symptoms are severe, your hernia treatment options only include surgical repair. Surgery for hernia can permanently fix your problem and give you instant relief from pain and discomfort.
There are two hernia treatment options:
- Open hernia surgery – In open surgery, your surgeon will make a considerably large incision at the site of the hernia. He/she will push the protruding organs or tissues back into their place. Sometimes, a mesh or medical implant is used to provide support to the weakened wall muscles.
- Laparoscopic hernia surgery – A laparoscopic surgery is a more advanced and safest technique for surgical repair of the hernia. In this method, your surgeon will make several tiny incisions at the site of the hernia. One of the tiny incisions is used to access the bulge through a laparoscope. A laparoscope is a thin tube with a small camera. This medical tool is used to look at the internal organs more clearly. Your surgeon will use the other incisions to push the bulge contents back in their place.
Both hernia treatment options are highly effective and safe. However, small risks and complications such as infection, low-grade fever are associated with hernia surgery.
The laparoscopic surgery offers more benefits to the patients as compared to open surgery. It requires less hospital stay, bleeding, scarring and a decreased chance of infection.
What is hernia prevention?
An active and healthy lifestyle is the key to hernia prevention. You should practice the following tips and tricks to keep hernia at bay:
- Eat high fibre foods to avoid straining and constipation
- Exercise moderately to maintain a healthy body weight
- Avoid lifting heavy weights or extraneous activities
- Avoid smoking or tobacco consumption
- Restrict your consumption of spicy foods
The concluding note
Prevention is only possible when most people grasp the concept of what is a hernia. Even if you have a non-symptomatic hernia, you should get it inspected by a healthcare provider to avoid any medical complications.
Visit the CK Birla Hospital or book an appointment with Dr Mayank Madan, the best laparoscopic surgeon in Gurgaon, to learn more about hernia treatment.
Ques: How serious is a Hernia problem?
An untreated hernia can cause various life-threatening complications. A hernia can get bigger and more painful.
Ques: Is a hernia painful?
Pain is a common symptom of hernia. However, whether the hernia is painful or not depends upon the location and size of the hernia.
Ques: What type of Hernia is most severe?
According to research, umbilical hernia is considered most severe among all types.
Ques: Do Hernias always require surgery?
Most hernia requires surgical intervention for permanent relief. Surgery is indicated only when the hernia is usually getting bigger with severe symptoms.