Hernias can be more than a pain in the side.
If you experience a heavy feeling in your abdomen when you bend, pain when you lift heavy objects or a lump that enlarged when you strain and disappears when you lie down, it could be a hernia. Having it treated will not only ease your discomfort, but can also help prevent the hernia from damaging internal organs.
Hernias are caused by a combination of muscle weakness and strain. Hernia surgery is one of the most common procedures in the U.S., with more than one million hernia repairs performed each year in the U.S. Depending on its cause, a hernia can develop quickly or over a long period of time. Hernias are mostly found in the abdomen, but may also be in the upper thigh, belly button and groin areas.
Factors that may cause a hernia include being pregnant, being constipated, heavy weight lifting, fluid in the abdomen, sudden weight gain, persistent coughing or sneezing. If your hernia is growing larger or causing pain, your doctor may decide it is best to operate. Hernias can be repaired with either open or laparoscopic surgery.
Surgery to repair a hiatal hernia is either performed using a single incision in the chest wall (thoracotomy) or the abdomen (laparotomy). Laparoscopic surgery uses a tiny camera and small surgical equipment to repair the hernia using only a few small incisions.
Common Myths and Misconceptions About Hernias
As prevalent as hernias are, there are still a lot of misconceptions about them. Here are some common myths.
Myth: Hernias only happen in your stomach.
Most hernias occur in the abdominal area in places like the upper stomach and belly button. But hernias can also appear in different areas of the body, including the groin and upper thigh. The most common type of hernia is inguinal. These hernias are located in the groin area, and they account for 75% of all hernias.
Myth: Only men get hernias.
Anyone can get a hernia. While they are more common for men, women and even children can have hernias. In fact, femoral hernias – located in the upper thigh – are more common for women than men. It’s important to correct this myth so more women will be aware of the symptoms and seek treatment if needed.
Myth: I would know if I had a hernia.
Some hernias go unnoticed until pressure is applied to the area. It can be easy to brush aside abdominal pain as a stomachache or just to ignore it. However, pushing through the pain could cause further tearing and make the problem much worse. If you think the pain you’re feeling may be something more, look for the signs of a hernia:
- Bulging in the painful area
- Nausea or vomiting
- Pain while lifting
- Dull aching in the affected area
Myth: You can treat a hernia yourself or wait until it goes away.
Hernias rarely go away on their own and often require surgery to repair. Consult with your doctor if you believe you have a hernia and let them recommend the best treatment. Trying to self-treat a hernia or refusing to seek care can worsen symptoms. The hernia may continue to grow or even become strangulated when the organ is trapped outside of the tissue and blood flow is cut off. This can cause severe pain and even life-threatening complications.
While there’s no guaranteed way to avoid a hernia, there are a few steps that may help prevent them. Exercising and maintaining a healthy weight can help you avoid the additional strain on your body that may lead to a hernia. Additionally, focus on your core strength as hernias often emerge through weak spots in the abdomen. If you exercise regularly, be sure to use proper form when bending and lifting to avoid tearing or overextending. These simple lifestyle adjustments can lower your risk of experiencing the discomfort of a hernia.
Patient results may vary. Consult your doctor about the benefits and risks of any surgical procedure or treatment.
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