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Familiarize Yourself With the Different Types of Hernias

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 one of the muscle walls surrounding the abdominal cavity. The lump that protrudes through the weak area may contain either a piece of intestine, or omentum (the fatty lining of the colon) if the hernia develops in the abdominal wall or groin. In some cases, portions of the stomach may be involved once bulge pierces through the diaphragm.1

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

Inguinal hernia: Arguably the most common type of hernia, it occurs when your intestines push through a weak spot or tear in the abdominal wall.4 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 occurs in the same canal, which contains a ligament that helps hold the uterus in place.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 occur 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 sac may also protrude into the scrotum.

Direct inguinal hernia: Middle-aged and elderly people are more prone to this type of hernia because their abdominal walls weaken with age. A direct inguinal hernia develops in areas where naturally slightly thinner abdominal walls are present, and doesn’t usually bulge into the scrotum. Patients who have this type of hernia may experience discomfort that’s similar to testicular pain, making it hard to diagnose.

Hiatal hernia: When part of your stomach bulges through the diaphragm, or chest cavity, this is a hiatal hernia. Also called a hiatus hernia,7 it is most common in people over 50 years old.8 There are two main types of hiatal hernia:9

Sliding hiatal hernia: When this occurs, the stomach  and the section of the esophagus connecting the stomach move upward into the chest. Take note that this may predispose you to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Heartburn and other GERD symptoms may be experienced by patients with hiatal hernias.

Paraesophageal hiatal hernia : A paraesophageal hiatal hernia occurs when part of the stomach bulges through the opening or hiatus into the chest that is next to the esophagus.10

It’s said that a paraesophageal hiatal hernia warrants more cause for concern. Symptoms like chest pain, upper abdominal pain and difficulty swallowing may appear. While they can be usually addressed, these indicators can lead to a higher risk for incarceration (stomach gets stuck, resulting in obstruction) or ischemia (blood supply to the stomach is cut off). These conditions may require emergency surgery.

Ventral Hernias

A ventral hernia develops in the abdomen, usually through an opening in the abdominal muscles. There are two main types:11

  • Incisional hernia: This usually occurs after undergoing abdominal surgery. The intestine, tissues or other organs may push through or near the incision. According to John Hopkins Medicine Health Library, this type of hernia occurs in 33 percent of abdominal surgery patients.12
  • Epigastric hernia: This is a painless hernia, which is usually composed of fatty tissue, and rarely contains intestine. It forms in a considerably weak area in the middle portion of your abdomen – just between the bellybutton and the lower part of the ribcage. Some cases of an epigastric hernia may be left unresolved, as they cannot be moved back into the abdomen.13

Your Diaphragm May Be Affected by a Hernia Too

A diaphragmatic hernia usually occurs due to a birth defect. It prompts an opening in the diaphragm where abdominal substances are able to pass through and go into the chest cavity.14 There are two types of diaphragmatic hernia:15

  • Traumatic diaphragmatic hernia: This will target the left diaphragm. Trauma, such as a blunt trauma that negatively impacts the diaphragm or penetrating trauma caused by a stab or gunshot wound, plays a major role in the development of this type of hernia in the chest cavity.
  • Congenital diaphragmatic hernia: Failure of the diaphragm to completely develop during fetal development 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.

The Umbilical Cord May Be the Site of a Hernia in Babies

An umbilical or umbilicus hernia  may develop in children and in babies when their intestines bulge through the abdominal wall near their belly button.16 An 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.17

Sports Hernia

If you’re very active or play sports, you may be at risk for a sports hernia. This is a painful strain or tear of any soft tissues like a muscle, tendon or ligament in your lower abdomen or groin area. It often develops during sports that require sudden changes of direction or intense twisting movements.

While a sports hernia can lead to a traditional abdominal hernia, it’s a different injury altogether. The medical community refers to sports hernia as an “athletic pubalgia,” since different tissues may be affected and a traditional hernia may not exist.18

Other Types of Hernias

The following are other types of hernias that may manifest:19

  • Femoral hernia: This type of hernia specifically develops under the inguinal crease, located in the middle portion of your upper leg. The bulge mainly develops in a passageway that connects the femoral artery, vein and nerve to your thigh. This type of hernia is more prevalent among women and may become irreducible or strangulated if not addressed immediately.
  • Spigelian hernia: This rare type of hernia develops along the edge of the rectus abdominus muscle, through the Spigelian fascia that’s several inches lateral to the middle of the abdomen.
  • Obturator hernia: A rare abdominal hernia that’s very difficult to diagnose, the obturator hernia develops mostly in women, and is characterized with a bulge from the pelvic cavity via an opening in the pelvic bone (obturator foramen). An obturator hernia won’t show a bulge, but it can obstruct bowel movement and trigger nausea and vomiting.
  • Incarcerated hernia: This occurs when herniated tissue becomes trapped and is unable to be easily moved back into place in the abdominal wall. An incarcerated hernia may lead to a bowel obstruction20 or strangulation.21
  • Strangulated hernia: If the fatty tissue or a section of the small intestine in a hernia may not be placed back in the organ, this can lead to a strangulated hernia.22 This occurs when the blood supply to the small intestine is cut off. A strangulated hernia is a life-threatening medical condition because it can lead to sepsis or even death.23

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 asymptomatic hernias), 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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