Hernias come in many different varieties, but are almost always painful and troublesome. Make sure you get a head-start on your recovery by getting an in-depth look at all of the major symptoms and causes here. A quick diagnosis and treatment will shorten your recovery time and get you back to your favorite activities.
A hernia is when part of an organ or tissue pushes through an opening in muscle or other tissue. Many people may not experience pain or discomfort and only notice a small bulge, though your experience with a hernia will be dependent on its location. Hernias occur most often in the abdomen but can happen in many other locations.
Types of Hernias
There are five main types of hernias--hiatal, inguinal, incisional, abdominal and strangulated. Each type of hernia is unique and presents in different parts of the body. Below we will cover each type of hernia and its defining features.
When the opening in the diaphragm, called the hiatus, allows the stomach to come through you may experience hiatal hernia symptoms. Many people may never experience any symptoms from their hiatal hernia and only find out they have one when their doctor is checking for other conditions.
What is inguinal hernia? An inguinal hernia is when part of the intestine or other tissue pushes through the abdominal wall. It accounts for 70% of all hernias and occurs near the groin, on either side of the pubic bone.
A less common type of hernia is an incisional hernia. It occurs after someone has had abdominal surgery and tissue herniates through the incision site. When the surgeon is closing the incision after surgery, there are multiple layers of tissue that need to be brought together. The incisional hernia happens when some of the tissue breaks apart at the incision site.
Any hernia that pushes through at any point in the midline area of the abdomen can be placed into this category. These types of hernias are usually painless and the bulge is made up of fat tissue. Unfortunately, these hernias typically will only enlarge over time if not treated.
A strangulated hernia progresses from an incarcerated hernia and is when the tissue or organ that has protruded out from its original spot has its blood flow cut off. It is considered a medical emergency and can be fatal.
Wondering what causes a hernia? There are numerous hernia causes and they all depend on the location of the condition. Abdominal and inguinal hernia causes tend to be related to changes in the abdominal muscle. Hiatal hernia causes are from changes in the diaphragm. Incisional hernias are caused by a previous surgery. Lastly, a strangulated hernia is caused by surrounding muscle closing down on the intestine or other herniated tissue.
Here are some of the most common causes for hernias of all kinds:
Weakened abdominal muscles
What are the Symptoms of a Hernia?
Hernia symptoms are strongly dependent on the hernia type and location.If you are looking for signs of hernia take a look below.
With an inguinal, incisional, abdominal, and strangulated hernia your doctor will be able to make a diagnosis based on a physical exam. He or she will look at the hernia site and determine if additional testing is necessary. With a hiatal hernia, your doctor will need to complete further testing to confirm the hiatal hernia diagnosis.
A hiatal hernia endoscopy (EGD) is when a small camera is placed in your esophagus. It can visualize your esophagus and stomach. Your doctor will be able to determine if your stomach has pushed up through the hiatus and caused a hiatal hernia.
Hernia pictures done with an x-ray may be done with swallowing a liquid that coats your esophagus and stomach. This will provide images that show the silhouette of the esophagus and stomach showing any hernias.
Typically an inguinal hernia can be diagnosed based on an exam but your doctor may order an ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis.
There are many treatment options for hernias. Hiatal hernia treatment is typically done with diet changes, medication, and rarely surgery. Inguinal, incisional, abdominal, and strangulated hernias can be treated with braces and surgery.
If you have a hiatal hernia, diet changes may be just what you need. Reduce the amount of caffeine, alcohol and other triggers for your heartburn. Eat smaller meals, stop smoking, and raising the head of your bed all may help you reduce your hernia symptoms. These changes will not be a hiatal hernia cure but can help you avoid the need for medication or surgery.
Inguinal and Sports Hernia Exercise
Step 1: Lay down on your back.
Step 2: Place your hands on your hip bones.
Step 3: Slide your hands halfway to your navel.
Step 4: Take a deep breath in and slowly let it out.
Step 5: Allow your transverse abdominal muscle to push against your hands.
Step 6: Repeat five times.
Step 1: Lay down on your back while on a bed or couch.
Step 2: Let your outer leg come down onto the floor.
Step 3: Rotate your knee outward for a slight stretch.
Step 4: Hold the stretch for ten seconds.
Get the precise compression and support you need with a specialized hernia belt. ( See Product at Amazon )
If you have a single or double inguinal hernia, a hernia belt will provide gentle compression onto the site to reduce pain and swelling. Hernia belts are supports that are worn around the waist and have removable compression pads that cover the hernia site. Also known as a hernia truss, these belts support weak groin muscles and are ideal for an inguinal or sport hernia. We like hernia belts that are adjustable to optimize compression at the site of the hernia.
Lower Back Brace
Comfortable and resistant to slipping, a lower back brace can help hernia symptoms all day long. ( See Product at Amazon )
A lower back brace is a great support device for someone with an incisional or an abdominal hernia. The brace compresses against the herniated site reducing swelling and pain. If you are recovering from surgery, you change sizes due to swelling and an adjustable brace will be very useful.
Hernia surgery recovery will be based on the type of hernia and operation, ranging from as little as four weeks to several months. Larger hernias can make for a longer recovery, which is why many surgeons encourage early hernia repair. Luckily, most people are able to move around quite well hours after surgery.
As with any surgery, call your surgeon if you are experiencing pain, redness, chills, excessive swelling, or have a fever. These are all signs of an infection. He or she will guide you through your next steps to get you the treatment you need.
Living a Full Life after a Hernia
Maintaining an active life after hernia surgery is possible, and understanding the types of hernias and potential treatments will lead to a better outcome. If you are suffering from a hernia, this article will help you understand your condition and get you back to living a full life!
Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.
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