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HERNIA

A hernia happens when an organ or other parts of the body pushes out of the muscle or tissue that is supposed to hold it in place.

There are various types of hernias, and the most common ones include:

1. Umbilical hernias

The fatty tissue or part of the intestine pushes through the umbilical area.

2. Inguinal hernias

The fatty tissue or part of the intestine pushes through the inner groin, at the top of the upper thigh. This is the most common type of hernia, and usually affect males

3. Incisional hernias

The fatty tissue or part of the intestine pushes through the previous abdominal site of operation.

4. Hiatal hernia

Part of the stomach squeezes through the hiatus, an opening in the diaphragm

5. Femoral hernia

The fatty tissue or part of the intestine pushes through the outer groin

You may suspect that there is an inguinal, umbilical, incisional or femoral hernia when there is a noticeable lump near the groin or abdomen that can be pushed back in, or disappears when you are lying down. Any strain to the abdomen or groin for example laughing, coughing, or straining when you are in the toilet can cause the lump to appear again. 

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HOW TO DIAGNOSE?

Your doctor would do a physical examination on the site of concern to feel the bulge. In some cases, an ultrasound scan may be required to confirm the diagnosis. 

For hiatal hernias, there are no obvious bulges on the body. Instead, symptoms such as heartburn, difficulty in swallowing and reflux will be experienced.

WHAT CAUSES IT TO OCCUR?

There are different reasons why the different types of hernias have occurred. That being said, hernias mostly occur because the area is weak - either during birth, or over the course of time.

In the case of hiatal hernias, it is the most common in patients older than 50 years. If it were to occur to someone younger, it mostly would have happened due to a birth defect.

IS IT PREVENTABLE?

Hernias are not completely preventable, but there can be some steps that you can take to lower the risk of developing a hernia.

  • Take more fruits and vegetables to increase fibre in your diet

    • Hernias may develop when there is constant straining because of constipation. By increasing the fibre in your diet, it helps to improve your bowel movements

  • Exercise regularly and safely

    • By exercising, you are strengthening your muscles and it can help to decrease the risk of getting a hernia. 

IS IT COMMON?

The most common hernia is the inguinal hernia and it affects mostly men. This is because of the structure of the inguinal canal within the body. It is found in the groin and for men, it is where the spermatic cord passes from the abdomen to the scrotum. 

  • For women, the inguinal canal has a ligament that helps to hold the uterus in place.

  • Such hernias are more common in men as the testicles descend through the inguinal canal while still a baby - and this canal is supposed to close almost completely behind them. Sometimes, the canal may not have closed properly causing the area to be weaker.

For hiatal hernias, as mentioned previously, it is the most common in patients who are over 50 years.

Regarding umbilical hernias, it can occur in children and babies where their intestines bulge through their abdominal walls near their naval. It does go away on its own as the abdominal walls get stronger, typically when the child is 1 - 2 years old. Adults may also have umbilical hernias and it may be due to repeated strain on the abdomen. This may happen because of weight (obesity), pregnancy, or having ascites, which are fluid in the abdomen.

TREATMENT

Surgery is the only method to completely treat a hernia. However, it is dependent on the type of hernia, size of hernia, and how severe its symptoms are. Over time, a hernia may increase in size and may cause more pain and may even develop complications.

In the meanwhile, refrain from doing any strenuous activity as it may aggravate the hernia. You may find laughing, coughing and sneezing uncomfortable as it applies pressure on the hernia site. Light exercise like walking and brisk walking are okay, but other activities like weightlifting are discouraged.