A hernia happens when part of an internal organ or tissue bulges through a weak area of muscle. Most hernias are in the abdomen.
Hernias happen more frequently in certain parts of the body, like the abdomen, groin and upper thigh area, and belly button area. They also can happen in any place where you may have had an incision from surgery. A combination of muscle weakness and straining, such as with heavy lifting, might contribute. Some people are born with weak abdominal muscles and may be more likely to get a hernia.
Here are a few tips for keeping hernias from hurting you:
- Stay at a healthy weight for your height and body type.Talk to your doctor or a dietitian about a healthy eating and exercise program if you think you are overweight or obese.
- Make fruits, veggies, and whole grains a "regular" part of your diet. Not only are these foods good for you, they're also packed with lots of fiber that will prevent constipation and straining.
- Be careful when weight lifting or lifting heavy objects.Make sure you lift weights safely by never lifting anything that's too heavy. If you have to lift something that's heavy, bend from your knees, not at your waist, or don't lift it at all.
- See your doctor when you're sick. If you have a persistent cough from a cold or you sneeze a lot because of allergies, see your doctor about cough or allergy medicines.Quit smoking. Smoking can cause persistent coughing, and this can strain your abdominal muscles. The risk of getting hernias is just one more reason to kick the habit!
Most hernias are caused by a combination of pressure and an opening or weakness of muscle or connective tissue. The pressure pushes an organ or tissue through the opening or weak spot. Sometimes the muscle weakness is present at birth but more often it occurs later in life. Anything that causes an increase in abdominal pressure can cause a hernia, including obesity, lifting heavy objects, diarrhea or constipation, or persistent coughing or sneezing. Poor nutrition, smoking, and overexertion can weaken muscles and contribute to the likelihood of a hernia.
Your surgeon will watch the hernia and make sure that it is not getting larger or causing problems. Although surgery is the only treatment that can repair hernias, many surgical procedures are elective for adult inguinal hernias. Watchful waiting is an option for people who do not have complications or symptoms with their hernias, and if recommended by their surgeon.
The surgeon makes several small incisions in the abdomen that allow surgical tools into the openings to repair the hernia. Laparoscopic surgery can be performed with or without surgical mesh.
The surgeon makes an incision near the hernia and the weak muscle area is repaired. Open repair can be done with or without surgical mesh. Open repair that uses sutures without mesh is referred to as primary closure. Primary closure is used to repair inguinal hernias in infants, small hernias, strangulated or infected hernias.