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What Is a Hernia?


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  • A hernia is a condition where an organ pushes through an opening in the muscle or tissue that holds it in place, producing a bulge. The lump or bulge usually contains some intestinal or abdominal fatty tissue, which are enclosed in the membrane that naturally lines the inside of the cavity
  • Some hernias may run in families. There are known genetic abnormalities of collagen fibers in the muscles and fascia (the thick lining of the muscle) that make it possible for hernia to be genetically transmitted

A hernia is a condition where an organ pushes through an opening in the muscle or tissue that holds it in place, producing a bulge. The lump or bulge usually contains intestinal or abdominal fatty tissue, which are housed in the membrane lining your cavities. A hernia may be pushed back in or become unnoticeable upon lying down, although it may reappear once a person coughs.

Pain experienced by hernia patients often manifests during periods of rest, walking or running. However, it’s also possible to have no symptoms at all. Most of the time, a hernia isn’t life-threatening, but it doesn’t go away on its own. In some instances, surgery may be needed to prevent dangerous  complications.1,2

Where Do Hernias Usually Appear?

A hernia can appear in several different areas of the body:3,4

  • Groin: Men and women can develop either an inguinal or femoral hernia in the groin. Inguinal hernias are more common in men, while femoral hernias are more prevalent in women.
  • Upper part of the stomach: This occurs when a patient has a hiatal hernia, when the upper portion of the stomach pushes out of the abdominal cavity and into the chest cavity via an opening in the diaphragm.
  • Belly button: An umbilical or periumbilical hernia triggers a bulge in this part of the body.
  • Surgical scar locations: If you or someone you know underwent an abdominal surgery, an incisional hernia may develop through the surgical scar.

What Are the Risk Factors for a Hernia?

There are numerous risk factors that can predispose a person to hernia:5

Genetics: Genetic abnormalities of collagen fibers in the muscles and fascia (the thick lining of the muscle) that make it possible for hernia to be genetically transmitted.

A mismatch of collagen has been suggested to present itself among hernia patients, according to studies. These patients have more amounts of Type III collagen (immature and weaker) and less quantities of Type I (more mature and stronger). Furthermore, these people are also prone to have collagen that’s laid in an unorganized pattern.

Obesity: Those who are overweight or obese have a higher hernia risk, especially after they undergo an abdominal surgery. Likewise, obesity may also make a person more prone to have another hernia even after surgery.

Smoking: Smoking can predispose you to postoperative wound complication or a hernia recurrence.

Gender: Men are more prone to have a hernia.

Heavy lifting: Regularly lifting heavy items or weights can potentially raise pressure in the abdomen and trigger hernia formation.

Constipation: People who strain when passing stools greatly increase their abdominal pressure, potentially leading to a hernia. A higher hernia risk has also been associated with a low-fiber diet, which can result in constipation.

Having an enlarged prostate (in men) or prolapsed bladder or cystocele (in women), or straining to urinate: Any of the aforementioned conditions linked to parts of the reproductive may cause a man or a woman to strain harder while urinating, or at least help empty the bladder at the end of the stream.

This raises both pressure within the abdomen and a person’s hernia risk.

Pregnancy and labor: While there isn’t direct evidence linking abdominal pressure during pregnancy to developing a hernia, women who have an increased risk for hernias may develop one due to the added strain.

Premature babies: Premature infants are known to have a higher possibility for hernia.

Undergoing a surgery: Wound infection, emergency surgery, and post-operative cough and constipation may increase a person’s hernia risk after a surgery.

Steroids, immunomodulator medicines or chemotherapy: These medicines are known to slow down the wound healing process, leading to a higher risk for an incisional hernia.

Coughing, bronchitis or asthma: A major side effect of constant coughing is its tendency to increase pressure on your abdominal wall.

An even higher hernia risk may be seen in people who cough because of smoking, bronchitis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), acid reflux or post-nasal drip tend.

Sleep apnea: Sleep apnea may cause hernia due to poor oxygenation and impaired tissue health. Snoring against a closed airway may also lead to pressure, increasing risk. 

Inherited connective tissue disorders: These include diseases like Ehlers-Danlos and Marfan’s syndrome.

Diabetes: Diabetics have problems with healing. If this disease is not controlled properly and you undergo abdominal or pelvic surgery, an incisional hernia may occur, as the closure of the muscle and fascia layers may not heal properly.

Ascites caused by liver failure: This condition triggers increased abdominal pressure and causes some of the naturally occurring holes in the abdomen to stretch out.

Having a previous hernia: Another hernia may appear on the opposite section of the abdomen.

Playing sports or a experiencing a traumatic injury:6,7 If you consistently work out or play sports, you may be prone to a sports-related hernia.

Although a hernia may cause pain, there are measures you can take to protect your body. Watching out for common symptoms, talking to your doctor about possible remedies, and practicing good lifestyle and eating habits are some of the ways you can avoid this condition.


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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