Hernias can occur in different areas of the body, though most commonly, hernias form in the stomach area. Men can develop hernias in their scrotums. Even babies can get hernias.
What Is a Hernia?
A hernia happens when an internal organ comes through its protective layer of tissue and muscle. The hernia will look like a lump or bulge under the skin. Hernias in different parts of the body have different names:
- Inguinal hernia (groin area)
- Femoral hernia (top of the inner thigh)
- Hiatal hernia (abdomen)
- Epigastric hernia (between the navel and breastbone)
- Umbilical hernia (at the belly button)
- Incisional hernia (at the site of a surgical incision)
What Are the Symptoms of a Hernia?
The most common symptom of a hernia is a lump or bulge.
- Inguinal Hernia: With an inguinal hernia, you may feel or see a lump on either side of your pubic bone where the groin and thigh meet. A type of inguinal hernia in men can occur in the testicles.
- Femoral Hernia: With a femoral hernia, sometimes women feel a burning sensation that travels to the labia, or experience discomfort, burning, or pain in the upper inner thigh area.
- Hiatal Hernia: With a hiatal hernia, besides the bulge, you may experience a burning or aching sensation, acid reflux, chest pain and can have difficulty swallowing.
- Epigastric Hernia: An epigastric hernia causes a lump in the breastbone area that’s above your belly button. This type of hernia is a fat mass. You may only see the bulge when you cough, laugh, or sneeze. An epigastric hernia can also cause pain and tenderness, but it’s common for an epigastric hernia not to show any symptoms.
- Umbilical Hernia: Umbilical hernias are most commonly found in babies, but adults can get them too. Umbilical hernias in babies may not be noticed unless a baby is crying, laughing, or straining to empty their bowels.
- Incisional Hernia: Incisional hernia symptoms can include a bulge or lump, pain, putrid-smelling drainage, swelling, fever and redness that indicate an infection. It's important to get medical help right away for this type of hernia.
What Causes a Hernia?
Hernias are often caused in people who have weakened abdominal muscles or who do a lot of heavy lifting or straining. Depending on the cause, a hernia can develop quickly, or slowly over time. Common muscle weakness can come from a birth defect (where the abdominal wall doesn't close properly while in the womb), age, chronic coughing, or damage from injury or surgery. Common strain causes that can lead to a hernia, especially when muscle weakness is present, include pregnancy (abdominal strain), constipation (straining during bowel movements), lifting heavy things, fluid in the abdomen, sudden weight gain, surgery, a chronic cough, or frequent sneezing.
How Are Hernias Treated?
Many hernias don’t require treatment and your doctor will keep an eye on it, but some do. If a hernia is causing pain or is severe, a surgeon can perform a simple and safe laparoscopic surgery to repair the hernia.
What’s the Long-Term Outcome If You’re Found to Have a Hernia?
A hernia doesn’t go away on its own, but with prompt medical care and lifestyle changes (weight loss and/or dietary changes), you can minimize the effects of a hernia and avoid life-threatening complications, such as strangulation. Many people don’t experience symptoms of a hernia, but if you are, it’s important to get checked by a doctor. The physicians at Gotham Gastroenterology are highly trained in diagnosing and treating hernias. If you’re concerned about the possibility of a hernia, or about your digestive health, make an appointment with us at one of our convenient NYC locations today.