According to the National Center for Health Statistics, five million Americans have a hernia, yet only 750,000 seek treatment each year. A hernia can be uncomfortable, unsightly and painful, and even cause life-threatening complications. However, some hernias cause no symptoms. Don’t let a hernia stand in the way of your health, comfort or daily activities. Take the steps to learn about hernias and treatment options.
A hernia is a protrusion, or bulge, of an organ or tissue through an abnormal opening in the body. Most hernias occur through a weakness in the abdominal wall – creating a lump you can see and feel. This protrusion may develop in the groin, around the navel or near a previous surgical incision. Hernias may develop slowly over a period of months or years but can also develop more rapidly. Some hernias are even present at birth.
The most common symptoms for a hernia include a lump in the abdomen or groin, which may or may not disappear while lying down or applying pressure. The lump may continue to increase in size over time. One may also experience a dull, aching sensation that increases with activity.
Hernias have many causes – some of the most common include:
- Congenital (present at birth)
- Muscle weakness due to weight gain and aging
- Muscle strain from heavy lifting and/or pregnancy
- Strenuous activity
- Scar from previous abdominal surgery
- Chronic coughing or sneezing
Diagnosis of a hernia can be as simple as a physical exam by your physician. If the hernia isn’t easily apparent, your physician may suggest imaging, such as a CT scan, or a referral for follow-up with a surgeon. After diagnosis, a variety of different treatment options for hernias are available, but the only way to effectively treat a hernia and provide long-lasting relief is to have it surgically repaired.
Hernia repairs are common, routine surgical procedures, most often repaired one of two ways – open surgery or minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery. Open surgery is when a surgeon makes an incision in the abdominal wall to repair the hernia, whereas laparoscopic surgery is when the surgeon makes a few small incisions, inserts long thin tools and a camera, and repairs the hernia. Most of the time, hernia repairs are outpatient procedures. In both surgical methods, the hernia is most commonly repaired using mesh reinforcement, which generally decreases recurrence, is well accepted by the body and encourages healthy tissue growth.
Hernias are common in both men and women of all ages. If you are experiencing discomfort, don’t wait! Schedule your physical exam with your primary care physician today, or call a Freeman General Surgeon.
About the Author
Alan Buchele, MD, FACS, earned his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas. Board-certified in general surgery, he completed his residency at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska. Dr. Buchele is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, and he currently serves as Governor of the Southwest Missouri Chapter of the American College of Surgeons – representing surgeons of multiple specialties in Southwest Missouri on a national level. Dr. Buchele has practiced medicine in Joplin since 1996 – joining Freeman Physician Group in 2011. He also sees patients in Pittsburg, Kansas, at Freeman Physician Group of Pittsburg. For more information about hernias, please visit freemanhealth.com/hernia or call 417.347.8585.