A hernia develops when an organ or tissue pushes through a weakened area in an adjacent muscle or connective tissue. Hernias are caused by a combination of pressure and an opening or weakness. The muscle weakness can be present at birth, or it can develop later in life. Almost anything that can increase the pressure in the abdomen can cause a hernia.
Some of these causes include: Lifting heavy objects without stabilizing the abdominal muscles, Persistent coughing or sneezing, Diarrhea or constipation, Obesity, Smoking, Poor nutrition, and Pregnancy.
Hernias are classified by anatomical location. The most common types of hernias are: Inguinal (inner groin) hernia, Femoral hernia (below the groin), Incisional hernia (at healed surgical incision), Umbilical hernia (navel or belly button), Hiatal hernia (diaphragm).
Because there are many types of hernias, there are a variety of symptoms you may experience. Symptoms may be gradual or sudden and can be painless or quite painful. Some warning signs and symptoms of a hernia could include:
- Pain when lifting, coughing, or straining
- A bulge in the abdomen, groin, or scrotum that is visible when you cough but disappears when you lie down
- The sensation that something has ruptured
- Pressure, weakness, burning, or pain in the abdomen
Once abdominal and groin hernias cause discomfort or pain, they can be considered for surgical repair. If the hernia progresses and a part of the intestines enters the hernia and gets stuck, that can result in intestinal blockage and require emergent surgery.
Hiatal hernias are different from the other types of hernias. Hiatal hernias occur when the upper stomach, instead of staying below the diaphragm, slides upward into the chest cavity through an existing opening in the diaphragm through which normally the lower esophagus passes. This can contribute to or worsen acid reflux disease. Large or complicated hiatal hernias or any sizable hiatal hernia in the presence of chronic acid reflux can be considered for surgical repair.