The National Center for Health Statistics states about 5 million Americans have a hernia, but only about 750,000 seek treatment each year.
A hernia can be uncomfortable, unsightly, painful and even cause life-threatening complications. Some hernias, however, do not cause any symptoms. The best way to diagnose a hernia is a physical exam by a surgeon and a CT scan.
Hernias often take months or even years to develop. They grow larger as pressure inside the body builds. Hernias can even develop 10 years after a previous abdominal surgery.
There are different treatment options for hernias, but the only way to effectively treat a hernia and provide long-lasting relief is to have it surgically repaired. This can be done in one of two ways:
- Open surgery – where the surgeon makes an incision in the abdominal wall.
- Laparoscopic surgery – where the surgeon makes a few small incisions, and inserts long thin tools and a camera. The surgeon uses the tools to repair the hernia with mesh.
The most common causes for hernias are:
- Muscle weakness due to weight gain and aging
- Muscle strain from heavy lifting or pregnancy
- Scar from a previous abdominal surgery
The link between obesity and formation of a hernia: Obesity increases the risk for developing abdominal wall hernias. Being overweight increases the strain and pressure on your abdominal muscles – making muscles weaker and more prone to developing a hernia. Obesity can also lead to the development of multiple hernias in the muscle wall.
The key elements to losing weight are diet and exercise. Bariatric surgery, or weight loss surgery, is very effective for people who are unable to lose weight or maintain weight loss with diet and exercise alone. Patients can expect to lose between 35% and 70% of excess body weight one year after bariatric surgery. For more information about bariatric surgery, click here.