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A – Z of Illnesses & Conditions

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Hernia


Hernia:  A hernia occurs when part of an internal organ bulges through a weak area of muscle. Most hernias occur in the abdomen. There are several types of hernias that can occur throughout the body, but they most often develop in the area of your body between your chest and hips. Some of the more common types of hernias are described below.
  • Inguinal hernias occur when fatty tissue or a part of your bowel pokes through into your groin at the top of your inner thigh. This is the most common type of hernia and it mainly affects men. 
  • Femoral hernias also occur when fatty tissue or a part of your bowel pokes through into your groin at the top of your inner thigh. They are much less common than inguinal hernias.  
  • Umbilical hernias occur when fatty tissue or a part of your bowel pokes through your abdomen near your belly button (navel). This type of hernia can occur in babies if the opening in the abdomen through which the umbilical cord passes doesn't seal properly after birth. Adults can also be affected, possibly as a result of repeated strain on the abdomen.
  • Hiatus hernias occur when part of the stomach pushes up into your chest by squeezing through an opening in the diaphragm (the thin sheet of muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen). This type of hernia may not have any noticeable symptoms, although it can cause heartburn in some people.
  • Other types of hernia that can affect the abdomen include:
  •     Incisional hernias – these occur when tissue pokes through a surgical wound in your abdomen that has not fully healed.
  •     Epigastric hernias – these occur when fatty tissue pokes through your abdomen, between your navel and the lower part of your breastbone (sternum).
  •     Spigelian hernias – these occur when part of your bowel pokes through your abdomen at the side of your abdominal muscle, below your navel.
  •     Diaphragmatic hernias – these occur when organs in your abdomen move into your chest through an opening in the diaphragm. This can affect babies if their diaphragm does not develop properly in the womb, but can also affect adults.
  •     Muscle hernias – these occur when part of a muscle pokes through your abdomen. They can also occur in leg muscles as the result of a sports injury.
Hernias are common. They can affect men, women and children. A combination of muscle weakness and straining, such as with heavy lifting might contribute to it. Some people are born with weak abdominal muscles and may be more likely to get a hernia.

The usual treatment for a hernia is surgery to repair the opening in the muscle wall. Untreated hernias can cause pain and health problems.

You should see your doctor if you think you have a hernia, so they can determine whether you need to be referred for surgical treatment.


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