What is Hernia?: Know Symptoms, Causes, Surgery, & Recovery Time

Hernia has become a very typical medical anomaly among people. It can usually be detected with ease as it is mass protruding and causes sharp pain. It might look like an odd bulge, sometimes occurring without any symptoms in the beginning but with discomfort or pain later. Most of the time, hernias may eventually require surgical treatment as part of the final treatment. Read on to get an understanding of its symptoms, causes, treatment, recovery, and other essential aspects.

What is Hernia?

A hernia occurs when an organ (or its part) pushes through an opening in the muscle or tissue that holds it in place. For instance, the intestines may push through a weakened area of the abdominal wall. Most hernias occur in the abdomen between the chest and the hips. They can also appear in the upper thighs and Groin areas. 

Hernias don’t go away on their own, but they aren’t immediately life-threatening. In many cases, they require surgical intervention to prevent dangerous complications. 

Types of Hernia

There are several types of hernias. The common types include the following. 

  • Inguinal hernia

Inguinal hernias are the most common variants of hernias. They occur when the intestines push through a tear or a weakened spot in the lower abdominal wall, often into the inguinal canal, which is present in the Groin. These are more common in men as the inguinal canal passes through the abdomen to the scrotum, which is the area through which their testicles descend shortly after birth. Sometimes, women can also get inguinal hernias.

  • Hiatal hernia

It occurs when a part of the stomach protrudes up through the diaphragm into the chest cavity. This is usually occurs in people over the age of 50. These are always cause GERD – Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. In GERD, the stomach contents usually leak backwards into the oesophagus, causing a burning sensation.

  • Umbilical hernia

Umbilical hernias often affect children and babies. These occur when the intestines bulge through the abdominal wall near the belly button. This is the only type that often goes away on its own because the abdominal wall muscles get stronger with time. This usually occurs when the baby is 1 or 2 years old. 

  • Ventral hernia

A central hernia occurs above the belly button and includes umbilical and incisional. 

  • Perineal hernia

 A perineal hernia occurs when the tissue or organ pushes through the opening or weakness in the pelvic floor into the abdominal cavity. These are relatively rare.

Knowing the Symptoms of Hernia

Not all hernias cause symptoms, but different hernias cause different symptoms. The most obvious sign among the hernia symptoms is a visible bulge or lump that appears in a specific area during certain activities or in certain physical positions. Discomfort or pain in the area around the lump might also be present.

Some types of hernias, such as hiatal hernias, can have specific symptoms. These can include trouble swallowing, heartburn, and chest pain. Patients may not even be aware of their hernias while they are undergoing a medical examination for an unrelated problem or a routine physical.

When to Worry about Hernia Pain?

A strangulated hernia can cause life-threatening complications if a trapped section of an internal organ doesn’t get proper blood flow and strangulation occurs. This causes the tissues to become infected or die. A strangulated hernia can cause:

  • a bulge that becomes red or purple
  • fever
  • pain that suddenly gets worse
  • vomiting
  • nausea
  • inability to pass gas
  • difficulty in bowel movements

When such symptoms appear, they signal the need to seek emergency medical attention for a hernia. 

Understanding the Causes & Risk Factors 

Hernia occurs when a weakened area or pre-existing opening in a muscle or connective tissue allows an organ or another tissue to push through the barrier. Sometimes, the weakness can be present at birth, but it usually develops during one’s lifetime. Most often, repetitive stress, pressure, or exertion can wear a tissue down, leading to weakness in an area. 

There are several risk factors that enhance the chances of developing a hernia. 

  • A traumatic injury or damage from surgery
  • Occupational strain that involves heavy lifting or many hours of standing
  • A chronic cough or other allergies that cause chronic sneezing
  • Chronic constipation and straining to defecate or urinate
  • A history of abdominal or pelvic surgery
  • Pregnancy, especially repeat pregnancies
  • Chronic obesity

A child may be more likely to be born with a congenital hernia if they:

  • Are born prematurely
  • Have a connective tissue disorder
  • Have cystic fibrosis
  • Have congenital hip dysplasia
  • Have other problems in their reproductive system or urinary system
  • Have undescended testicles

Treating, Diagnosis and Management

  • To diagnose a hernia, a doctor or healthcare provider should perform a physical examination of the patient. During this examination, the doctor may feel a bulge that gets larger when the patient sits or stands up or coughs or strains. They might also ask about the symptoms and the patient’s personal medical history. The doctor is also likely to seek results for certain diagnostic tests, like abdominal ultrasound, CT and MRI scans to locate hernias, or X-rays of the digestive tract and endoscopy down the throat into the stomach for hiatal hernias.
  • Hernias are not likely to go away on their own and can cause life-threatening complications. While early hernia treatment can minimise the symptoms, surgery is the only way to treat hernia effectively.
  • Hernia repair surgery is a pretty common and generally a minor procedure. This procedure involves pushing the herniated tissue back into its place and reinforcing the barrier it pushed through with stitches or surgical mesh. 
  • Laparoscopic hernia surgery is a minimally invasive method for routine hernia repair which involves making smaller incisions, less postoperative pain, and faster recovery. It involves using a laparoscope, which is a thin, long tube with a small lighted camera on the end to clearly look inside the surgical site. The laparoscope goes in one small incision and long, thin surgical tools through another incision. 
  • Robotic surgery for hernia repair is another advanced and minimally invasive procedure in which the attending surgeon controls the tools and equipment from a computer console using robotic arms. Some hernias may need traditional open surgery. Only congenital umbilical hernias close on their own as the child grows, but sometimes they might not.
  • Hernias are common, and most aren’t serious, but the chances of complications are not nil. Symptoms of pain and other problems worsen over time, but smaller hernias may not be operated upon immediately after discovery. Doctors might choose to wait and monitor the growth and symptoms of the hernia and decide upon the right time and type of surgery required to repair the hernia.

Recovery from Hernia Treatment

  • After a hernia surgery, it is normal for patients to experience pain around the surgical site. Prescription medications could help manage pain and discomfort while recovering. It is important to follow proper instructions on caring for the wound and seek prompt treatment if signs of infection, like fever, redness or drainage at the incision site, or pain that suddenly worsens occur.
  • Following a hernia repair surgery, patients are able to move around normally for several weeks, but they should avoid any strenuous activities. Open surgery often requires a longer recovery time than laparoscopic surgery. 
  • Hernia repair surgery is among the commonly performed procedures. Omni Hospitals perform hernia repair surgery with optimal care and precision with high success rates and without any postoperative complications. To get world-class treatment backed by cutting-edge technology and highly experienced surgeons, visit the Omni Hospitals.

This blog has been verified by Dr. Tagore Mohan Grandhi, Gastrointestinal Surgeon, General, Bariatric & Minimal Access Surgeon.