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About Your Hernia - Frequently Asked Questions
A hernia develops if part of an internal body organ (usually your intestine) protrudes through a tear or through a weak point in the thin wall of muscle holding your abdominal organs in place.
There are several different types of hernia, depending where it occurs:
• inguinal hernia -- which appears as a bulge in the groin or scrotum is more common in men than women;
• hiatal hernia -- a condition in which a portion of the stomach protrudes upward into the chest, through an opening in the diaphragm;
• femoral hernia -- which appears as a bulge in the upper thigh. This type of hernia is more common in women;
• incisional hernia -- can occur through a scar, particularly if the incision has not been adequately sutured following abdominal surgery;
• umbilical hernia -- which appears as a bulge around the navel and occurs if the muscle around the navel does not close completely after birth.
What causes hernia?
Hernias can occur in any adult. Although it is often said to result from heavy lifting and straining, there is no obvious single cause of hernia.
Infants and young children can also develop hernias. This happens if the lining around the infant's abdominal organs fails to close properly before birth. This occurs in about 5% of children – with boys more likely than girls to develop hernias. In some children it is not readily detectable as they may not develop any symptoms until they are adults.
Signs and symptoms of hernia
Hernia is detectable as:
• hiatal hernia by itself rarely causes symptoms -- pain and discomfort are usually due to the reflux of gastric acid or bile. Reflux happens more easily in the presence of hiatal hernia, though a hiatal hernia is not the only cause of reflux;
• discomfort or pain in the groin, particularly if this is aggravated by lifting or bending;
• a tender lump in the groin or scrotum – which may increase in size when coughing, bending, lifting, or straining;
• a non-tender bulge or lump in children. The lump may not be obvious in infants and children, except when the child is crying or coughing.
If you are unsure whether you have a hernia you should visit your doctor if:
• you have groin pain or a swelling or a bulge in your groin;
• your child has an umbilical hernia which has failed to heal on its own by the time your child is about five years old.
You should call your doctor right away if:
• you have a hernia and you cannot push the contents of your hernia back into your abdomen using gentle pressure;
• you have a hernia and you develop nausea, vomiting, or a fever. This could mean that your hernia has become strangulated and has developed an infection;
• your hernia becomes red, purple, dark, or discolored.
Almost all hernias require surgery, preferably before complications occur, to reposition the protruding loop of intestine and secure the weakened muscles in the abdomen.
Surgery for this is usually performed as an outpatient procedure using local or general anesthesia. Through an incision, the piece of bowel forming the hernia is placed back into the abdominal cavity. Then the muscle wall of the abdomen is stitched closed. A piece of plastic mesh is often used to reinforce the defective section of the abdominal wall.
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