Hernias are a relatively common occurrence in both men and women. A hernia results when an organ protrudes through a weak area found in the muscle or tissue which is responsible for holding it in place. One example of this is when the intestines break through a weak area found in the abdominal wall.
The most common hernias are in the abdomen. However, they can also occur in the upper thigh, groin and belly button. Often hernias are not known to be life threatening. However, as they don’t disappear on their own, surgery is often required to prevent possible dangerous complications. A combination of strain and muscle weakness can cause a hernia. It can develop quickly or over an extended period of time.
Some common causes of muscle weakness may include:
- abdominal wall fails to close properly in the womb; this is referred to as a congenital defect
- advanced or young age
- persistent and chronic coughing or sneezing
- damage from injury or surgery
- pregnancy can put pressure on your abdomen
- excessive and/or persistent constipation which can cause strain during a bowel movement
- excessive heavy weight lifting
- a build-up of fluid in the abdomen, aka ascites
- sudden weight gain
There are several options for treatment of a hernia:
Dietary changes can be helpful in treating symptoms of a hiatal hernia. Try to avoid heavy/large meals, keep your weight in the healthy range and avoid lying down or bending over after a meal. If you still experience discomfort after making these changes, it’s likely you will require surgery. Your doctor will be the best person to assess your needs at this point.
Medication is also used to treat hernias. You can use medications that reduce stomach acid to help with the discomfort of a hiatal hernia. These types of medications include antacids, proton pump inhibitors, and H-2 receptor blockers.
Surgery as previously mentioned is also part of the treatment for a hernia. Your doctor may decide to operate if you find that the hernia is becoming larger or the pain is unmanageable. This can be done with either open or laparoscopic surgery. Laparoscopic surgery often has a shorter time in recovery. However, there is a higher risk of your hernia returning. In addition, laparoscopic repair is not suitable for all types of hernias.
As in all things, prevention is the best form of defense against developing a hernia. While you cannot always prevent muscle weakness which can develop into a hernia, you can monitor the level of strain that you place on your body which could cause a hernia. Managing and monitoring stress and strain on your body will help to avoid developing a hernia.
Ways to prevent a hernia include:
- quitting smoking (if you are a smoker)
- visit your doctor if you have developed a persistent cough
- manage and maintain a healthy body weight
- avoid excessive and persistent strain during bowel movements and/or urination
- lift objects correctly by using your legs and not your back
- do not lift objects that are too heavy