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Familiarize Yourself With the Different Types of Hernias

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different types of hernia

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  • An abdominal hernia develops when weak spots form in layers of muscles and tissues in the abdominal wall, allowing contents of the abdominal cavity to protrude
  • A ventral hernia develops in the abdomen, usually through an opening in the abdominal muscles
  • The medical community refers to a sports hernia as an “athletic pubalgia,” since different tissues may be affected and a traditional hernia may not exist

People can be affected by different types of hernias, as this condition can manifest in several different areas of the body.

How You Can Be Affected by an Abdominal Hernia

In the case of an abdominal hernia, an organ or other piece of tissue sticks out through a weak point in some of the muscle walls surrounding the abdominal cavity. A hernia can appear in the abdominal wall or groin and contain a piece of intestine or omentum (the fatty lining of the colon), or show up through the diaphragm and possess some portions of the stomach.1

Abdominal hernias may be present at birth (congenital) or appear any time while growing up (acquired). There are several different classifications for this type of hernia, such as:2,3

Inguinal hernia — Arguably the most common type of abdominal hernia, this appears when your intestines push through a weak opening in the abdominal wall. In men, this hernia may occur near the groin in the inguinal canal, where the spermatic cord passes from the abdomen to the scrotum. In women, an inguinal hernia appears in the same canal, which contains a ligament that helps hold the uterus in place.4,5

Inguinal hernias are more common in men than women. There are two types of inguinal hernias that people may be diagnosed with:6

Indirect inguinal hernia — This hernia, which may arise at any age, lowers from the abdomen into the scrotum, or the natural pathway of the testicles during fetal development. While this passage normally closes before birth, it may allow for a hernia to develop later on. An indirect inguinal hernia may also protrude into the scrotum.

Direct inguinal hernia — Because the abdominal walls tend to weaken with age, middle-aged and elderly people are more prone to this hernia. A direct inguinal hernia develops in areas with naturally and slightly thinner abdominal walls, and doesn’t usually bulge into the scrotum. People with this type of hernia experience discomfort that’s similar to testicular pain, making it hard to diagnose.

Hiatal hernia — According to the Mayo Clinic, a hiatal hernia occurs when a part of your upper stomach protrudes through the diaphragm or chest cavity.7 Also called a hiatus hernia,8 it’s most common in people over 50 years old,9 and comes in two types:10

Sliding hiatal hernia — The stomach and the section of the esophagus connecting the stomach move up to the chest. This may predispose you to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and increase your risk for heartburn and other GERD symptoms.

Paraesophageal hiatal hernia — A paraesophageal hiatal hernia develops when part of the stomach bulges through the opening or hiatus into the chest that’s next to the esophagus.11,12

A paraesophageal hiatal hernia warrants more cause for concern, and may come with symptoms like chest or upper abdominal pain and difficulty swallowing. While it can be addressed, it may lead to a higher risk for incarceration (the stomach gets stuck and causes an obstruction) or ischemia (a cut off of blood supply to the stomach), and can require emergency surgery.13

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Ventral Hernias

A ventral hernia develops in the abdomen, usually through an opening in the abdominal muscles. It can be classified as either of the two:14

  • Incisional hernia — This develops after undergoing abdominal surgery, when the intestine, tissues or other organs push through or near the incision. This type of hernia appears in 33 percent of abdominal surgery patients.15
  • Epigastric hernia — This is a painless hernia, which is usually composed of fatty tissue. It develops in a considerably weak area in the middle portion of your abdomen — just between the belly button and the lower part of the ribcage. Some cases of an epigastric hernia may be left unresolved, when the tissues cannot be moved back into the abdomen.16

Your Diaphragm May Be Affected by a Hernia Too

A diaphragmatic hernia is caused by a birth defect wherein an opening in the diaphragm allows abdominal substances to pass through and go into the chest cavity.17 There are two types of diaphragmatic hernia:18

  • Traumatic diaphragmatic hernia — This often targets the left diaphragm. Either a blunt trauma to the diaphragm or a penetrating trauma caused by a stab or gunshot wound can lead to the development of this hernia, which occurs in the chest cavity.
  • Congenital diaphragmatic hernia — When the diaphragm fails to completely develop during fetal development, it may result in this rare type of diaphragmatic hernia. Should a hernia develop when abdominal organs push through the chest, the lungs will fail to function properly and won’t mature.

Hernias in Babies Occur in Their Umbilical Cord

An umbilical or umbilicus hernia may develop in children and in babies when their intestines bulge through the abdominal wall near their belly button.19 A small umbilical hernia often goes away on its own once the abdominal wall muscles get stronger, usually by the time the child is 2 years old. If the hernia is either too large or doesn’t completely close, children may need to undergo surgery to address it.20

Sports Hernia

If you’re very physically active, you may be at risk for a sports hernia, or a painful strain or tear of muscles or tendons in your lower abdomen or groin area. It often develops during sports that require repetitive or intense movements.21

While a sports hernia is called as such, take note that it’s not considered a hernia overall. The medical community refers to sports hernia as an “athletic pubalgia,” since different tissues may be affected, and a traditional hernia, characterized by a visible lump in the affected area,22 may not exist.23

Other Types of Hernias

The following are other types of hernias that may manifest:

  • Femoral hernia — This hernia develops under the inguinal crease, located in the middle portion of your upper leg. The bulge mainly appears in a passageway called the femoral canal responsible for linking the femoral artery, vein and nerve to your thigh. A femoral hernia is more prevalent among women and may become irreducible or strangulated if not addressed immediately.24
  • Spigelian hernia — Also called a lateral ventral hernia, this rare type of hernia develops along the edge of your rectus abdominus muscle.25 It mainly affects the Spigelian fascia responsible for separating two types of abdominal muscles26 and can either be congenital or acquired.27
  • Obturator hernia — A rare abdominal hernia that’s very difficult to diagnose, an obturator hernia develops mostly in women. A unique fact about this condition is that while it doesn’t show a bulge, a hernia can arise from the pelvic cavity via an opening in the pelvic bone (obturator foramen), and obstruct bowel movement and trigger nausea and vomiting.28
  • Incarcerated hernia — This arises when herniated tissue becomes trapped and is unable to be easily moved back into place in the abdominal wall.29 An incarcerated hernia may lead to a bowel obstruction or strangulation.30
  • Strangulated hernia — If a hernia cannot be pushed back in the organ, this can cut off the blood supply leading to the small intestine, and lead to a strangulated hernia. This life-threatening condition must be acted upon immediately because it can lead to sepsis or even death.31

No matter what type of hernia you may be dealing with, if symptoms manifest or if you feel like there’s something wrong with your body (especially if you may have an asymptomatic hernia), consult a doctor immediately to address the disease and prevent complications from occurring.


Hernia: An Introduction

What Is Hernia?

Hernia Symptoms

Hernia Causes

Types of Hernia

Hernia Treatment

Hernia Surgery

Hernia Prevention

Hernia Diet

Hernia FAQ

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