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Hernia: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About hernia

Hernia is a common disorder and is defined as protrusion of an organ outside the cavity which contains it. Groin is the commonest site of hernia. It causes considerable discomfort, and if untreated, may lead to serious complications.

Hernia: Incidence, age and sex

Hernia is a common disease and can occur at any age from infancy to old age. Inguinal hernias are primarily seen in males, while femoral hernias are seen almost exclusively in females.

Signs and symptoms of hernia: Diagnosis

Inguinal hernia presents as a painless lump or swelling in the groin. The lump often disappears on lying down and becomes more pronounced on standing or coughing. There may be discomfort in the inguinal area and scrotum if the hernia becomes large in size. A detailed physical examination is usually enough for diagnosis.

Hernias can also occur in the thigh (femoral hernia), in the abdomen through a defect in the abdominal wall muscles (epigastric hernia) or through the incision of past abdominal surgery (incisional hernia).

Causes and prevention of hernia

Hernia occurs due to weakness in the abdominal wall due to which abdominal contents namely fat and intestines protrude outside. Any condition which increases the pressure inside abdomen predisposes to development of hernia. Some of these conditions are obesity, chronic cough, straining during bowel movement or during urination and fluid in the abdominal cavity. Heavy weight-lifting, tight clothing and sharp blows to the abdomen can also lead to hernia. Any condition which leads to weakness of the muscles like malnutrition or chronic illness can cause hernia.

Hernia: Complications

If left untreated, hernia can become irreducible and the contents of the hernial sac cannot be pushed back into abdomen. A very serious complication is strangulation in which the blood supply gets compromised and there may be gangrene. This is a surgical emergency and can be rapidly fatal. There may be intestinal obstruction in which the patient may have intense abdominal pain, vomiting and inability to have a bowel movement.

Hernia: Treatment

The definitive treatment of hernia is surgery. Uncomplicated hernias are treated by pushing back the contents of hernial sac back into the abdomen and repairing the defect in the abdominal wall (herniorraphy). Synthetic material or a mesh prosthesis is also used to provide reinforcement to the muscles. Presently, hernia repairs are done through laparoscopic approach with a small incision. It is important to take certain precautions like avoidance of constipation, coughing and strenuous physical activity.