Could It Be a Hernia? Know the Symptoms
A sudden onset of pain, sometimes accompanied by a bulge, weakness, or burning, could be a sign of a hernia. But what exactly is a hernia, and what can you do about it? Read on to find out everything you need to know.
What Is a Hernia?
The muscles in your body that help you move and perform bodily functions have another purpose you might not have thought about: keeping your organs in place. A hernia occurs when your muscles tear or naturally gap, allowing one of your organs to push through the hole. There are several types of hernias, including:
- Inguinal Hernia. Occurring most commonly in men, an inguinal hernia occurs when the small intestine pushes into the inguinal canal in the groin. You might notice a bulge around your groin, as well as experience pain, a burning sensation, or weakness.
- Hiatal Hernia. Occurring most commonly in people over 50, a hiatal hernia happens when the stomach pushes up through the diaphragm into the stomach cavity. This type of hernia can result in acid reflux, chest pain, and difficulty swallowing.
- Incisional Hernia. When you have surgery, the resulting incision site tends to be weak for a while. Your organs might push through this weakened tissue, resulting in an incisional hernia, which occurs mainly in the abdomen. You might have a visible bulge that grows when you lean over or cough, as well as some discomfort.
Are Hernias Preventable?
Unfortunately, hernias aren’t entirely preventable, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing one. These activities can also help you lead a healthier life overall. To reduce your risk of developing a hernia, consider the following tips:
- Exercise regularly and safely. Working out can help you strengthen your muscles, meaning you’re less likely to experience a hernia. However, overexerting yourself or putting too much pressure on your muscles at once can increase your risk. Speak with your doctor about creating a healthy exercise plan.
- Eat fiber and drink fluids. Constant straining due to constipation can lead to hernias. Eating fiber and drinking plenty of water can help keep you regular and avoid unnecessary injury.
- Reach or maintain a healthy weight. Extra body fat can put pressure on the muscles and weaken them. If you need help losing weight, speak with your doctor about developing a healthy weight loss plan or whether you’re a candidate for bariatric surgery.
- Seek treatment for a chronic cough. Persistent coughing for an extended period can strain your muscles, increasing your risk of developing a hernia. See your doctor about treating the cause of the cough.
- Quit smoking. Smoking is a common cause of chronic coughing, so quitting can lower your risk. These three tips can help you stop.
How Do Doctors Treat Hernias?
Hernias won’t heal themselves, so your doctor will likely suggest surgery. Traditionally, doctors would perform open surgery to repair hernias. This entails opening up the body near the hernia site, moving the organ back to its proper location, and closing the hole with sutures or surgical mesh. Doctors now tend to perform laparoscopic surgery, as it typically has a shorter recovery time and is less likely to result in infection.
If you think you might have a hernia, schedule an appointment with your Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group primary care physician. They can diagnose your condition, suggest lifestyle changes, and even refer you to a Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group general surgeon for hernia repair.