What is it?
Hernia is the medical condition where an organ is pushed through any gap in either the muscle or tissue that is supposed to hold it. The most common hernia occurs in the abdomen where a weakened section of the abdominal wall will allow the intestines to break through. Some hernias can occur in the upper thigh, belly button and groin areas.
Hernias are not life-threatening but they need to be looked at as they will not go away on their own. However, some hernias might require surgery in order to prevent the occurrence of complications. They can develop at any age.
Types of Hernia
There are different types of hernia, some of the common ones are:
- Inguinal Hernia: is the most common type of hernia and occur when the intestines push through a weakness, usually a tear, in the lower abdominal wall. It is found to occur more in men than women.
- Hiatal Hernia: is the case where a part of the stomach protrudes through the patient’s diaphragm into the chest cavity. It usually leads to gastroesophageal reflux where a burning sensation is experienced.
- Umbilical Hernia: usually occurs in toddlers below 6 months of age where the intestines bulge through the abdominal wall, near the belly button. This bulge can be seen in or near the baby’s belly button.
- Incisional Hernia: is found in patients who underwent an abdominal surgery where the intestines push through the incision scar or the weak tissue that surrounds the incision.
The patients suffering from Hernia experience the following symptoms:
- Pain in the affected area especially when bending over, lifting or coughing
- Bulge or lump in the affected area
- Burning sensation usually at the affected area
- Acid reflux
- Chest pain
- Difficulty in swallowing
The doctor might conduct the following diagnostic tests to diagnose the type of hernia:
- Physical Examination: is usually done to diagnose inguinal or incisional hernias where the doctor will examine the bulge.
- Barium X-Ray: is taking a series of X-rays of the digestive tract tracking the path of the Barium that is present in a liquid solution drunk by the patient.
- Endoscopy: involves the insertion of a long flexible tube with a camera at one end through the throat and into the esophagus and the stomach.
- Ultrasound: is usually opted to diagnose an umbilical hernia for a toddler. It uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the organs and their surrounding.
The doctors will decide upon the treatment option after evaluating the size of the hernia and severity of the symptoms experienced. Some of the treatment Options include,
- Lifestyle Changes
The doctor might recommend a few lifestyle changes like
- Avoid heavy meals,
- Avoid lying down or lifting after a meal
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Exercise to strengthen the muscles around the site of the hernia
The doctors usually recommend surgery to treat hernia if the hernia grows larger or causes unbearable pain. The doctor will treat the hernia by sewing shut the hole in the affected area, usually the abdominal wall. Surgical mesh might be used to patch the hole.
The doctors might opt for either of the following surgical options:
- Open Surgery: usually takes a long time to heal due to larger incisions that are created to repair a hernia. The recovery process might take around 6 weeks.
- Laparoscopic Surgery: has a faster recovery time as only a few small incisions are created to repair a hernia. However, it cannot be used to treat all hernias, particularly in cases where a portion of the intestines moves down to the scrotum.
In laparoscopic hernia surgery, the surgeon will create a couple of tiny incisions near the abdomen and then the abdomen is inflated using air to help the surgeon see the organs and other body parts in the abdomen clearly. Then a laparoscope, a thin flexible tube with a camera at one end is inserted through one of the tiny incision. The surgeon will conduct the procedure using tiny instruments that are inserted into the other incisions.