What is a hernia? From blinking (an eye) to running (a marathon), every movement (in the human body) is controlled by muscle functions. Moreover, the muscles help hold the organs in their right position. But sometimes, a weak spot in a muscle wall can squeeze and yield to allow displacement and protrusion (of various organs in the body). One such condition is Hernia.
A hernia looks like a lump. One may not feel it while in the lying position. But it gets prominent and as such can be strongly felt when one moves the body with different postures (especially dragging and lifting heavy load). It occurs when an organ or fatty tissue squeezes through a weak spot in a surrounding muscle or connective tissue (known as fascia). Hernias are mostly found in the abdomen (known as abdominal wall hernia. They are generally visible and look like a lump or bulge beneath the skin. They do not cause any symptom except for mild pain during strain).
However, a hernia can also occur on the upper thigh/belly/ buttock/ groin areas. Most hernias are not life-threatening. But they persist and don’t go away on their own. Sometimes, they may require surgical treatment to avoid potentially dangerous complications.
One may experience symptoms depending on the type of hernia. The common symptoms experienced are discussed below.
2.1) The most prominent symptom is the visible bulge. It lies in the affected area on either side of the pubic bone (It is also known as pubis bone. It is one of the 3 principal bones that make up the pelvis). The bulge becomes more prominent when the patient is in an upright position (especially, while coughing/ bending/ straining). A burning or aching sensation is felt in the bulge
2.2) Sometimes, in the groin area, pain/ discomfort and even heavy dragging sensations are felt. Weakness and pressure may also be felt in the groin area.
2.3) Occasional pain/ swelling (around the testicles) may arise when the protruding intestine descends into the scrotum (it is an anatomical male reproductive structure. It consists of a suspended dual-chambered sack of skin and smooth muscle. It is present in most terrestrial male mammals and located under the penis).
2.4) Severe hernia symptoms are shooting pain/vomiting/constipation. Other symptoms are: the organ or the tissue becomes infected /blocked/ strangled.
2.5) Symptom among the children (particularly, among the newborn) is inguinal hernia resulting from weakness in the abdominal wall (detected at birth). Sometimes, the hernia (among the children) becomes visible only when the infant is crying /coughing /straining during a bowel movement. Under the condition, the infant may feel irritated and less hungry (than usual).
2.6) In case of strangulated hernia, the following symptoms may be experienced.
Most hernias are not painful. However, sometimes the area around the hernia may feel tender (having a sharp pulling sensation). The pain may be intermittent (or constant). Again, a hernia can also be painless and only appears as a bulge (with swelling). And the swelling may decrease (or disappear) depending on the pressure in the abdomen. The constant intense pain (at the bulge site) may be a cautionary signal for a medical emergency.
In fact, causes are the agents directly responsible for the occurrence of a disease. On the other hand, a risk factor is not necessarily a cause. A risk factor may be anything that increases the likelihood for a patient to develop the disease (for instance, age is a vital risk factor for most diseases including hernia. But it cannot be a cause). In most cases, it is not clear what is specific agent is causing the disease. For a particular disease to occur, the conglomerated effects of a host of factors (such as age, environment, body weight, lifestyle including food habits, physical activity, type of job involving strain, seasonal characteristics, medication, and surgery undertaken to cure other diseases) play a key role.
Hernias are caused by a combination of muscle weakness and strain. Depending on the causes, a hernia can develop quickly (or gradually over a longer period of time). Common causes of muscle weakness include failure of the abdominal wall to close properly in the womb. Ultimately, all hernias are caused by a combination of pressure and weakness of muscle (the pressure pushes the organ or tissue through the opening or weak point). Sometimes, the weakened muscle starts at the very birth.
To sum up, anything that causes an increase in pressure in the abdomen can cause a hernia.
The risk factors contributing to increasing in pressure include
Type, to a large extent, determines the treatment procedure. Again, the type of any malignant disease is itself determined by the causes/risk factors /signs/symptoms, and feelings experienced by the patient. There are mainly 5 types of hernias...
Diagnosis is identifying the root problem through applying various tests/ observing the symptoms / interrogating the patient about his feeling and observations /genetic history / personal history (including his lifestyle).
During the tests, the doctor will typically feel the presence of a hernia (around the groin area including the testicles, while asking the patient to cough). This procedure is applied because hernia gets prominent during coughing (in addition to standing/ straining). Among the various tests applied, the following tests are important
Surgery is the only option to cure hernia. A surgical repair involves pushing the bulge back inside the body part (where it originally lies). The doctor will usually recommend surgery if anyone of the following conditions occurs.
In the procedure, a piece of mesh is placed to reinforce the area with sutures or staples (instead of pulling the tissue around the hernia together. A mesh is made of flexible material that stays in the abdomen and helps the tissue to grow).
Conclusively, mesh (or non-tension) repair has a lower recurrence of incidence (than tension repair).
Many inguinal hernias can be repaired using a laparoscopic or closed procedure (especially, when the inguinal hernias are of smaller size). The procedure entails inserting special instruments through tiny incisions in the abdomen (with the help of which the surgeon is able to visualize to correctly perform the procedure. The instruments include a laparoscope, a fiber-optic tube with a tiny camera at the end). In the procedure, the surgeon makes 3- 4 incisions (size: ¼ inch-- ½ inch) in the abdomen (one is near the navel and the others lie downwards).
It is not possible to prevent hernia (especially caused by genetics). Further, a congenital diaphragmatic hernia is a birth defect (which is inevitable). One born with weak muscles makes it easier to get a hernia later in life.
However, one can reduce the chances of developing a hernia (later in life) by following a healthy lifestyle as described below.
There is no medicine to cure hernia (which is a hole/tear/weakened part in the body tissue through which another body part may protrude causing a bulge). Surgery is the only option to cure hernia. However, taking certain medications might help prevent the hernia from worsening further.