Hernia

female clutching her stomach
Image source: Healthline

A hernia can be harmless while others require treatment. Despite it being a common and often harmless and painless malady, some hernias, if left untreated, may cause further complications.

This article looks at what a hernia is, what causes it, and what treatments are available.

What is a hernia?

A hernia is described as an organ pushing through a weakened muscle or tissue that keeps it in its place. Many hernias are found to occur between your chest and your hips however, they can also occur in the upper thigh and groin areas.

Although most hernias may not pose any immediate risk to your health, without treatment the hernia may cause complications and surgery may be required.

Who is at risk?

Hernias usually affect those whose abdomens receive more pressure than usual. This includes those who do a lot of heavy lifting, who are obese, pregnant, experience chronic cough or straining during bowel movement.

Types of hernia

Inguinal hernia

There are three (3) types of inguinal hernia:

  1. Indirect inguinal hernia – This occurs in births whenAn inguinal hernia is the most common type of hernia. It occurs when tissue protrudes through a vulnerable point in the abdominal muscles.

    As a fetus develops, the spermatic cord and testicles lower into the scrotum and as it does, the opening is supposed to close. However, there are times when the muscles attached to the pelvis leave a weakened area during this process.

    Although an inguinal hernia may not be dangerous, it cannot heal itself and may lead to more complications.

    Symptoms of an inguinal hernia include:

    • swelling on either side of your pubic bone
    • the swelling may cause a burning or aching feeling
    • when bending over, coughing or lifting there is a feeling of pain or discomfort in the groin area
    • a heavy or dragging sensation in the groin
    • weakness or pressure in your groin
    • on occasion, you may feel pain and swelling around the testicles when the protruding tissue lowers into the scrotum.

    There are instances where some inguinal hernias occur as a result of:

    • heightened pressure on the abdomen
    • pregnancy
    • a pre-existing vulnerable spot in the abdominal wall
    • straining during urination and bowel movement
    • strenuous activity
    • chronic coughing or sneezing
    Other inguinal hernias occur later in life when muscles weaken or deteriorate due to aging, especially after an injury or abdominal surgery. the abdominal lining does not close properly.
  2. Direct inguinal hernia – This occurs over time due to straining and is caused by weakness in the abdominal muscles.
  3. Strangulated inguinal hernia – This occurs when blood supply to the intestines and abdomen tissues is constricted.

Hiatus hernia

The chest and the abdomen are separated by the diaphragm. A hiatus hernia occurs when part of the stomach pushes up into the lower part of the chest through a hole in the diaphragm.

Some symptoms of hiatus hernia:

  • pain in the abdomen
  • heartburn
  • an acid taste in the back of the mouth
  • bringing foods and liquids back up into your mouth
  • acid reflux (acid entering the oesophagus)
  • difficulty swallowing
  • vomiting
  • chest or abdominal pain and shortness of breath
  • frequent burping

The formation of a large hiatus hernia can also cause breathing difficulty as the stomach presses on the lungs.

There are two main types of hiatus hernia:

  1. Sliding hiatus hernia – This occurs when the herniated portion of the stomach can slide into and out of the chest.
  2. Rolling hiatus hernia – This occurs when the top of the stomach enters into the chest cavity and does not move in or out when you swallow.

Some causes of hiatus hernia are:

  • aging – muscles of the diaphragm weakens as you age and this allows for the increase of developing a hiatus hernia.
  • trauma – an injury can apply pressure on the diaphragm, causing the opening to expand.
  • surgery – abdominal surgery can increase the risk of a hiatus hernia
  • congenital – this can be found in infants as it develops in the utero before the baby is born.

Umbilical hernia

An umbilical hernia emerges when tissues poke through an area near the navel. This occurs when part of the intestine pushes itself through the umbilical opening in the abdominal muscles.

This process, which can happen at any age, causes the belly button to push outwards. 

Some symptoms of umbilical hernia:

  • a bulge or swelling near your navel button.
  • constipation.
  • a bulging navel button when an infant cries.
  • severe pain and tenderness in the abdomen.

Although treatment is not necessary, in some occurrences umbilical hernia may require medical attention.

Epigastric hernia

An epigastric hernia occurs between the navel button and the breastbone. The breastbone is located at the centre of the chest to which the ribs are connected.

The abdominal wall protects the intestines and other organs. As fat accumulates, it pushes through a weakness in the wall (between the navel button and the breastbone) and forms a lump. 

It is rare to come across symptoms of an epigastric hernia.  However, coughing, sneezing, laughing or, straining can cause it to appear.

An epigastric hernia usually exists due to the incomplete development of the abdominal wall.

Incisional hernia

An incisional hernia often occurs after abdominal surgery. Any operation conducted in the abdomen area requires the opening to be closed with stitches. If the incision does not heal properly, this may cause the muscle to weaken and may result in the contents of the abdomen to push out.

A common occurrence of incisional hernia is the result of a C-section operation.

Some symptoms of an incisional hernia are:

  • burning sensation of the affected area.
  • experiencing pain when straining or lifting heavy objects.
  • constipation as a result of scar tissue blocking the intestines.
  • vomiting, due to infection.

Femoral hernia

A femoral hernia arises when a portion of the abdominal tissue pushes through a vulnerable wall of the femoral canal. The femoral canal is found in the anterior thigh and is the smallest component of the femoral sheath.

A femoral hernia appears as a lump near the groin area or inner thigh and may cause pain if the lump becomes worse.

Apart from a lump, severe cases of femoral hernia may cause:

  • nausea
  • stomach pain
  • vomiting

A femoral hernia may result from:

  • straining while passing urine or stool
  • being obese
  • lifting or pushing heavy objects
  • having a persistent strong cough
  • giving birth
  • receiving dialysis, or treatment for kidney disease

Although most femoral hernias do not have symptoms, they may cause serious complications if they restrict the blood flow to your intestines.

Treatment

The best solution to treating hernias is undergoing surgical treatment. However, treatment may differ according to the size of the hernia and its severity.  

There are three (3) types of surgery options that can apply:

  • open surgery
  • laparoscopic surgery
  • robotic hernia repair surgery

The average cost of a hernia repair surgery is quite costly, depending on the type of hernia and surgery treatment.

Health Cover

Medicare, Australia’s public health care system, will normally cover a percentage of costs for hernia treatment, however, any additional cost will be an out-of-pocket expense.

The public health care system and its waiting list cannot guarantee you an immediate appointment with a specialist. Certain limitations by Medicare may require you to have private health insurance cover.

Having a private health cover assures you a quicker and faster resolution. Private health cover also guarantees you are a lesser medical bill.

Health Deal has partnered with some health funds to find you the perfect health cover to help you cover some of these procedural costs. Our service is absolutely free and we are completely unbiased in our decision.

What are you waiting for? Call Health Deal on 1300 369 399

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