• May 25, 2024

What Exactly Is a Hernia and Why Do So Many People Get Them?

What Exactly Is a Hernia and Why Do So Many People Get Them?

Anybody can get a hernia – at any age. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, researchers estimate that more than one out of every four men will develop an inguinal hernia (the most common kind) at some point in their lives. For women, that estimate is closer to just one out of every 34 women. So, what exactly is a hernia and how and why do so many people get them?

It all starts with your musculoskeletal system, which includes all of your body’s structural components – things like your bones, muscles and joints. A hernia typically occurs when there is a weak spot within your muscle wall, most often in the area of your abdomen. That weak spot expands and weakens further when an organ (usually the intestines) or fatty tissue pushes against the area. Imagine a tire that has developed a weak spot and the “bubble” that can develop at that spot. The bad news is, while hernias are a common condition, they can lead to increased discomfort over time and may even result in the need for emergency surgery if left untreated.

Overview: The different types of hernias

While inguinal hernias are the most common, there are several other variations. Below is a quick overview:

Inguinal Hernia: These occur when part of an organ or fatty tissue pokes through your abdominal wall or into the inguinal canal in the groin area. These are most common in men.

Hiatal Hernia: These occur when the upper part of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm into the chest cavity. They are often associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Umbilical Hernia: Seen mostly in infants, umbilical hernias occur when part of the intestine bulges through the abdominal wall near the belly button. These hernias can also affect adults, especially those who are overweight or have had multiple pregnancies.

Incisional Hernia: Developing through an incision site from a previous surgery, this hernia type underscores the importance of proper postoperative care.

Could you have a hernia?

Often there are no symptoms of a hernia, but if you feel pain when you lift heavy objects or while doing exercise, check to see if there is a bulge or swelling. Hiatal hernias have different symptoms, which can include acid reflux, regurgitation and difficulty swallowing.

If you suspect you may have a hernia, a medical professional can perform a physical exam to determine what is wrong. In certain cases, additional testing may be necessary to make a diagnosis.

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