How You Can Get Help For Your Hernia
June 03, 2019
“I’m going to give myself a hernia!” You may have said something like that as you lifted a heavy object. Although said in jest, it’s true that incorrectly lifting a heavy object can cause a hernia.
Hernia is a general term that means a hole or gap in a person's muscle or connective tissue that allows another body part – such as fatty tissue or a loop of intestine – to push through it, into another space.
Hernias are named by the location in the body where they occur: umbilical (bellybutton) hernia, inguinal (groin) hernia and between the abdomen and the chest, a hiatal hernia.
Hernias develop in areas where the muscle and tissues are weakened, which can occur with age, weight gain or previous surgery. When pressure in the abdomen increases due to lifting a heavy object, coughing, sneezing or straining, it can cause a hernia in that area of weakened tissue.
Types and Risks
Abdominal wall hernias, including umbilical and groin hernias, are the most familiar type. They involve a portion of the intestine pushing through the abdominal wall and creating a lump in the abdominal wall.
Paraesophageal hernia is a type of hiatal hernia. In this condition, the top portion of the stomach bulges up into the lower chest through an enlarged gap in the diaphragm, the muscle wall that separates the chest from the abdomen. The esophagus is the tube-like structure that connects the throat to the stomach, passing down through the chest and the diaphragm.
A condition called incarceration is the main risk with hernias. Incarceration means a portion of tissue or organ pushes through the hole and gets trapped, or incarcerated.
Incarceration can cause all kinds of problems, including significant pain, cutting off the blood supply to the intestine or a blockage in the GI tract. Having a hernia repaired sooner rather than later can help you avoid these potential complications, and hernias tend to be easier to repair when they are smaller.
The standard procedure for repairing a hernia involves moving the intestine, stomach or tissue back where it belongs.
Whenever possible, at UH Portage we use a minimally invasive surgical approach and only do traditional open surgery in certain, specific cases. For most patients, we reinforce the repair with a synthetic mesh that is safe to use in the body and designed for this purpose.
Where to Start If You Think You Have a Hernia
If you think you may have a hernia, make an appointment with your primary care provider. He or she can diagnose a hernia based on a thorough physical exam and refer you to a surgeon if necessary.
Already know you have a hernia that needs repair? Putting it off increases your risk of life-endangering complications. Keep in mind that hernias do not get better on their own, and surgical repair is safe and effective.
Claudine Siegert, MD, is a general surgeon who practices at UH Portage General Surgery in Ravenna.
Hanna Zhou, MD, is a general surgeon who practices at UH Portage General Surgery in Ravenna.
Read about one patient's experience with hernia repair surgery.
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