How Likely am I to Develop a Hernia?
If you’ve never had a hernia before, you may think you are immune. But, you might be surprised to know that there are many different scenarios in which a hernia can develop – and you may be a candidate.
“In general,” explains Stuart Donovan MD, with the TriHealth Surgical Institute, “a hernia is a weakness or a hole in the muscular abdominal wall. A bulge then forms as abdominal tissue protrudes or pushes through that hole.” There are various things that may cause the bulge to develop. Most all are related to an increase in pressure on the tissue in the belly wall and muscles. Some examples include chronic constipation that causes hard pushing, chronic cough and extra weight. Smoking is another risk factor.
Types of Hernias
Different hernia types develop under different circumstances.
- Inguinal hernias, the type that form in the groin, are more often found in men and usually can form because of heavy lifting or straining.
- An umbilical hernia is a hernia that occurs in the belly button or navel. These are commonly seen in both men and women and oftentimes can be seen in women following a pregnancy.
- Femoral hernias occur in the upper thigh and are more common in women as well.
- Hernias that develop after previous abdominal surgeries are called incisional hernias.
- A hernia that can occur through a hole in your diaphragm is a hiatal hernia, where the stomach can push up into the chest. It often occurs in people over 50. It can lead to reflux or a backflow of gastric acid from the stomach into the esophagus, which can result in heart burn and chest pain.
In addition to resulting from circumstances such as excessive strain, or developing at the site of a previous surgery, hernias also may be present at birth but not noticed until later.
What most hernias have in common are that they present in the form of a bulge and they can cause pain and discomfort.
While some hernias can be treated conservatively, without surgery, the best way to permanently fix them is through surgery. A surgeon will recommend the best course of action, including the most appropriate surgical method for repair: traditional open, laparoscopic or robotic.
A hernia can become a very serious issue. Sometimes, the tissue protruding through the hernia can include your bowel, which can lead to a bowel obstruction or blockage. This can become a surgical emergency. For that reason, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as you detect or think you have a hernia. “The key,” says Dr. Donovan, “is to consult with an experienced surgeon who can determine the best course of action, depending on the severity or complexity of the case.”
“Because of the nature of how hernias develop, anyone can be a candidate,” says Dr. Donovan. So it is best to watch for symptoms and seek medical advice immediately.