The Ins and Outs of Hernias

Hernias are abnormal bulges created by a weakness or hole, usually in the abdominal wall. A hernia occurs when part of an internal organ or other body part protrudes through the hole. Some hernias are present at birth (congenital), while others develop during adulthood. There are many different types of hernias, and they can occur in various locations of the body such as the groin, upper part of the stomach, near the belly button, or near a surgical scar; however, the most common is when a portion of the intestine protrudes through a weak area in the muscular wall of the abdomen. This can cause an abnormal bulge under the skin of the abdomen. Hernias may enlarge due to increased pressure inside the abdomen, such as during straining, persistent coughing, obesity or pregnancy. According to the Mayo Clinic, hernias are more common in males and those with a family history.

Diagnosis is usually straightforward, done simply by feeling and looking for the bulge, but since hernias don’t always produce troublesome symptoms, treatment is often a choice between watchful waiting and corrective surgery. The danger of the first is that sometimes the protruding tissue becomes trapped and strangulated and loses blood supply. This can cause many problems including nausea, vomiting, and the inability to pass gas or have a bowel movement. Surgery would be required immediately for this life-threatening condition.


Although you can’t prevent the congenital defect that makes you susceptible to a hernia, you can do things to reduce strain on your abdominal muscles and tissues. For example, maintaining a healthy weight, emphasizing high-fiber foods in your diet that can help prevent constipation and straining, lifting heavy objects carefully by bending from your knees or avoiding heavy lifting altogether, and stopping smoking which besides having a role in many serious diseases, can be the cause of a chronic cough that can lead to or aggravate a hernia.

Read more about hernias here.

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