A hernia is simply a hole in a muscle that causes a range of symptoms.
“The abdominal cavity is essentially a basket of muscle holding your organs within it. A weakness in the basket will often lead to a hole, which is by definition a hernia,” according to Michael R. Castellano, MD, FACS, director of the Hernia Center at Staten Island University Hospital. As the hole becomes larger or when internal organs, usually the intestines, begin to push through it, discomfort may turn to pain.
“The most common symptoms of a hernia are discomfort and swelling, but there are others,” says Dr. Castellano. An intermittent twinge, a dull ache or severe pain or burning may occur. Swelling may be mild asymmetry or swelling to a large firm lump. Prompt medical evaluation should be sought if severe acute pain becomes associated with a firm lump.
Symptoms of an incarcerated hernia tend to be more severe. Incarceration occurs when intestine or intra-abdominal fat become stuck within the hernia in the abdominal wall leading to bloating, nausea, vomiting and severe pain, and even emergency situations.
Diagnosing a hernia
Most hernias can be diagnosed by physical examination from a qualified health care provider. Symptoms suggestive of a hernia, without obvious physical evidence of one, warrant an evaluation by a surgeon with expertise in this area. On occasion, a sonogram, CT scan or MRI may be necessary.
Treating a hernia
If a hernia is small and not causing any symptoms, watchful waiting may be acceptable. However, if a hernia protrudes or if any symptoms are present, then it should be repaired.
Today, most hernia repairs are done in about thirty minutes as an outpatient procedure. Then can be done without general anesthesia, utilizing local anesthesia with IV sedation instead. This is safer, more comfortable and less stressful for most patients.
Dr. Castellano offers advice to protect ourselves against developing a hernia.
Avoid lifting heavy objects, but when lifting is necessary, breathe through a lift and bend from the knees, not the waist. Moving furniture, carrying suitcases, shoveling snow and weight lifting at the gym are common activities resulting in hernias.
Maintain a healthy weight, by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Eat less and move more.
A healthy diet devoid of processed food and full of fiber will usually eliminate constipation, which is a common cause of hernia formation, especially in older people. Stop smoking. This dangerous habit often leads to a chronic cough, which can result in a hernia.