Diseases & Conditions


HerniaCausesDiagnosisPreventionRisk FactorsSymptomsTreatmentTypes

What is Hernia?

Hernia is the condition that occurs when an organ protrudes through the cavity that usually holds it. Hernia that develops in the abdomen is very common.

Causes of Hernia

Hernia can be caused by a number of reasons depending on the person. Mechanical causes that can result in hernia include improper lifting of heavy weights, coughing bouts, tight clothing, incorrect posture and severe blows to the stomach.

Conditions that exert excessive pressure on the abdominal cavity can cause or worsen existing hernias. Examples of these are obesity, lung diseases, formation of fluids in the abdomen and overexertion during urination or bowel movement.

Overexertion, poor nutrition and smoking can also lead to the development of hernias.

Diagnosis of Hernia

If any of the symptoms mentioned are observed, a doctor should be consulted. If a hernia already exists and there is a worsening of conditions associated with it, the patient should be immediately taken to the emergency room.

Upon physical examination a doctor should be able to diagnose whether the person is suffering from hernia. Although some of the symptoms that are experienced may be common to other diseases, a physical examination by a qualified doctor is enough to confirm a diagnosis of hernia. If required imaging studies can be done before the surgery to determine the location, dimensions and risks involved.

Prevention of Hernia

Congenital defects that lead to hernias cannot be prevented but modifications in lifestyle can help to decrease the pressure exerted on the abdomen. Regular exercise, diet rich in fiber, not smoking and correct posture when trying to move heavy objects can help reduce the risk of developing hernia.

Risk Factors of Hernia

If a hernia is not treated, the following complications can develop.

  • Inflammation
  • Irreducibility
  • Obstruction ( bowel obstruction)
  • Strangulation
  • Hydrocele
  • Haemorrhage
  • Autoimmune problems
  • Incarceration

Symptoms of Hernia

Depending on the kind of hernia, there may or may not be symptoms. The most common symptom is the presence of a painful or painless lump of tissue protruding from the abdomen.

  • Reducible hernia
    • Presence of a lump in the abdominal or groin area.
    • Pain before lump is discovered.
    • Aches, but not tender to touch.
    • The lump is larger while standing or if pressure on the abdominal wall increases
    • Can be pushed back inside unless it is very large.
  • Irreducible hernia
    • A hernia that was previously reducible refuses to go back in when pushed.
    • Can be chronic but without pain
    • Also known by the term incarcerated hernia
    • Can cause strangulation
    • Vomiting and nausea(due to bowel obstruction)
  • Strangulated hernia
    • Part of the intestine gets trapped in the hernia and the blood circulation is cut off
    • Pain followed by tenderness, symptoms associated with bowel obstruction is also exhibited
    • Fever may or may not be present
    • Requires emergency surgery

Treatment for Hernia

Quick repair of hernias is advisable so that complications associated with hernias that remain untreated can be avoided. Organ failures and dysfunctions are avoidable complications. Simple hernias can be repaired by pushing back the damaged tissue and then restoring whatever weakness has occurred in the muscle (herniorrhaphy). Complications can be corrected by resecting again if necessary.

Modern techniques reinforce the muscle using synthetic materials so that the weak tissues are not over-stretched. A prosthesis made of mesh is placed above the defect (known as anterior repair) or below the defect (known as posterior repair). The recovery is faster and the rate of recurrence is lower in this method compared to some of the older techniques. But infections are more common when meshes are used. One reason for this was identified as diabetes.

Laparoscopic surgery is minimally invasive requiring incisions just enough to let a camera and other surgical instruments to pass through. A week or two of rest is enough to completely heal the wounds involved.

Types of Hernia

  • Inguinal
  • Femoral
  • Umbilical
  • Incisional
  • Diaphragmatic
  • Other hernias
    • Cooper's hernia
    • Epigastric hernia
    • Hiatal hernia
    • Littre's hernia
    • Lumbar hernia
    • Maydl hernia
    • Obturator hernia
    • Pantaloon hernia
    • Paraesophageal hernia
    • Paraumbilical hernia
    • Perineal hernia
    • Properitoneal hernia
    • Richter's hernia
    • Sliding hernia
    • Sciatic hernia
    • Spigelian hernia
    • Sports hernia
    • Velpeau hernia
    • Amyand's Hernia