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Recognizing Hernia Awareness Month In June

3 weeks, 4 days ago

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Posted on Jun 18, 2024, 2 p.m.

What Is a Hernia? 

A hernia is a common medical condition. The National Center for Health Statistics has reported that there are over five million people in the United States suffering from a hernia, yet only about 15% of them seek treatment for the condition. 

A hernia occurs when an organ or fatty tissue pushes through a weak spot in the surrounding muscle or connective tissue. This condition often affects the abdominal wall but can occur in other parts of the body as well. 

Hernias develop due to a combination of muscle weakness and strain, which can arise from various factors such as heavy lifting, chronic coughing, or even aging. While hernias are not usually dangerous and are treatable, if left untreated, complications may arise, and a hernia can become life-threatening. Understanding the nature of hernias is essential for recognizing symptoms and seeking appropriate treatment.

Common Hernia Symptoms

Hernia symptoms can vary depending on the type and location of the hernia. Common symptoms include:

  • A noticeable lump or bulge in the affected area, such as the abdomen or groin.
  • Pain, discomfort, or soreness, especially when bending over, coughing, or lifting heavy objects.
  • A feeling of weakness, heaviness, or pressure in the abdomen.
  • Burning or aching sensations at the site of the bulge.
  • In severe cases, symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and difficulty passing stools or gas may indicate a strangulated hernia, which requires immediate medical attention.

Types of Hernias

Hernias come in various forms, each with distinct characteristics, including the following.

Inguinal Hernia: The most common type of hernia, an inguinal hernia, occurs when tissue protrudes through a weak spot in the lower abdominal wall, often into the inguinal canal. This type is more prevalent in men.

Hiatal Hernia: A hiatal hernia involves part of the stomach pushing through an opening in the diaphragm into the chest cavity. This can cause symptoms like heartburn and acid reflux.

Incisional Hernia: Incisional hernias occur at the site of a previous surgical incision. They develop when the abdominal wall fails to heal properly, allowing tissue to protrude through the scar.

Umbilical Hernia: This type occurs near the belly button when part of the intestine pushes through a weak area in the abdominal wall. Umbilical hernias are common in infants but can also affect adults.

Femoral Hernia: Less common and more frequent in women, femoral hernias appear in the upper thigh near the groin. They can be particularly dangerous due to the risk of strangulation.

Perineal Hernia: This is a rare type of hernia that occurs when tissue or organs can push through weakness or an opening within one’s pelvic floor into the abdominal cavity.

Are You at Risk of a Hernia?

Certain factors can increase the likelihood of developing a hernia. Age is a significant factor, as muscle weakness and tissue deterioration occur naturally with aging.

Genetics can also play a role, as a family history of hernias may predispose individuals to the condition.

Chronic coughing, often due to smoking or lung conditions, can strain abdominal muscles and contribute to hernia formation.

Obesity is another risk factor, as excess weight puts additional pressure on the abdominal wall.

Pregnancy can lead to hernias due to the increased pressure and changes in the abdominal area.

Additionally, physical activities involving heavy lifting or intense strain can cause or exacerbate hernias.

How Are Hernias Treated?

Treatment options for hernias depend on the type and severity of the condition. For small, asymptomatic hernias, doctors may recommend a watch-and-wait approach, monitoring the hernia for any changes.

Lifestyle modifications such as dietary changes, weight management, and avoiding heavy lifting can help manage symptoms and prevent hernias from worsening.

Hernia surgery is often necessary for larger or symptomatic hernias. Hernia repair involves repositioning the protruding tissue and reinforcing the weakened area, often with a mesh implant.

There are two primary surgical methods: open surgery and laparoscopic surgery. In open surgery, a single, large incision is made to access and repair the hernia. In laparoscopic surgery, multiple small incisions are made, and the surgeon uses a camera and specialized tools to repair the hernia.

When to Talk to Your Doctor

It's crucial to consult a healthcare professional if you experience any symptoms of a hernia. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent complications and improve outcomes. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Sudden, intense pain at the hernia site;
  • Nausea, vomiting, or difficulty passing stools; and
  • The hernia becomes red, purple, or dark.

June is National Hernia Awareness Month

June is National Hernia Awareness Month, a time to educate and raise awareness about hernias. Understanding the risk factors, symptoms, and treatment options can help individuals take proactive steps to manage their health. If you suspect you have a hernia or are at risk, don't hesitate to reach out to Allied Digestive Health for help. Early intervention can make a significant difference in your quality of life and overall health.

This article was written for WHN by an integrated group of gastroenterology practices in the northeast, Allied Digestive Health is focused on delivering a positive experience across all care centers. Together with over 200 gastroenterologists, pathologists, anesthesiologists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants, ADH values consistency and quality, and prides itself on the high level of support provided. 

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

Opinion Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of WHN/A4M. Any content provided by guest authors is of their own opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.

Content may be edited for style and length.

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