Is Hernia Dangerous?
Last updated date: 25-Feb-2022
14 mins read
Hernia represents a bulge that comes through the openings of the muscle or tissue that surrounds it.
In other words, hernia consists of a part of an organ that comes through the weaker areas of the muscles or tissue that surrounds it. For example, a part of an organ, that is breaking out through an opening in the muscle or the tissue that maintains it on position.
Normally, hernias are referred to the abdominal area, as the limits are the chest (in the upper part) and the hip (in the lower part).
Hernias are not harmful, usually, but they are not going to heal by themselves. It is indicated to see a doctor as soon as the bulge occurs.
Hernias can occur in different parts of the body. Each type of hernia is actually differentiated by the area of appearance:
- Femoral hernia. Women are more likely to develop this type of hernia. It occurs in the upper thigh, under the groin.
- Inguinal hernia. Men are more prone to develop this kind of hernia, as it occurs within the groin, it could also reach the scrotum.
- Hiatal hernia. It happens when the upper part of the stomach puts pressure to the chest.
- Umbilical hernia. This type of hernia is related to bulges that are pushing out around the belly button. It is common in women whose muscles have not hermetically closed up after giving birth.
- Incisional hernia. A bulge can push through the scar of a prior surgery.
The femoral hernia, or femorocele, as it is also referred to, is best described by a bulge that occurs in the proximity of the groin or of the thigh. It is called femoral hernia, as in this case, the tissue pushes through the femoral canal.
Practically, this bulge consists of a part of the bowel that pushes through a weak spot of the abdominal muscles. On the level of skin, it will appear as a lump.
Even if the femoral hernias are rarely occurring, women are more prone to suffer of it. In the situation that you notice a lump on your groin, there are only 3% chances that is has occurred due to femoral hernia.
Normally, femoral hernia has no symptoms associated to. It is just the bowel that has pushed through the abdominal muscle. But there are situations, in which the femoral hernia could obstruct the blood flow to the intestines. This is a serious situation, which could lead to complications and it requires immediate surgery.
Causes of Femoral hernia
Normally, the muscles are strong enough to keep all the organs on their position, but, sometimes, due to a period of weakness or due to a life-long weakening process, along with other unknown causes, the femoral hernia might occur.
One of the main reasons for which a femoral hernia could be developed is represented by straining, as it can continuously contribute to the weakening of the wall of muscles. Other factors that could contribute to the development of femoral hernia are:
- Chronic constipation;
- Chronic coughing;
- Being overweight;
- Heavy lifting;
- Child birth.
Femoral hernias symptoms
Normally there are no symptoms related to femoral hernia.
In situation of a small sized femoral hernia, there will be no pain associated or any other discomforts. It is very probable, that in such case, you will not even notice the lump of femoral hernia.
In case of suffering of a larger sized femoral hernia, you will immediately notice it. As the lump of femoral hernia is bigger sized, the more noticeable and uncomfortable it could be. Also, it can gradually increase in dimensions, during time, and it could become worse. As it gets considerably more uncomfortable, the femoral hernia can also stimulate pain whenever you need to stand up, lift heavier objects or you just need to strain. As femoral hernia usually occurs in the proximity of the hip, it can also stimulate hip pain.
Due to femoral hernia, the intestines might get strangulated. This situation is rarely met, but it is very dangerous, as due to it, the intestinal and bowel tissue die. This becomes a life-threatening situation and it is considered a medical emergency. You can spot a severe case of femoral hernia if you accuse:
- Strong stomach pain;
- Groin pain;
- Nausea and vomiting.
If you are suffering of these symptoms, it is mandatory to get to a doctor immediately, as this condition could truly put your life at risk.
Diagnosing of Femoral hernias
Femoral hernia is normally diagnosed through gentle palpation of the area that is suspected to host it. In case of a larger and visible lump of femoral hernia, you might feel it when the doctor presses on it.
The ultrasound procedure can screen any anomaly of the muscular wall. Therefore, beside palpation, the process of diagnosing femoral hernia also consists of performing an ultrasound, in order to determine that you are suffering of femoral hernia (during palpation, no specific bulge has been noticed, but the suspicion of femoral hernia still exists), or to confirm the diagnosis.
Treating Femoral hernias
As the femoral hernias are usually not related to any symptoms at all, they do not need to be treated specifically, either.
Larger femoral hernias, on the other hand, might need surgical intervention, in order to repair the tissues, especially if they are the reasons of pain or any other discomfort.
If you are monitored by a doctor, he will perform several checks, in order to determine how has your condition modified. If you have firstly visited the medic for a small sized and barely noticeable femoral hernia and your doctor finds out that the condition has worsened, surgical intervention might be needed.
The surgical intervention for repairing the femoral hernia is performed only under general anesthesia and the patient will not feel anything during the procedure.
There are two types of surgical interventions that can be performed to repair the femoral hernias: laparoscopic surgery and open surgery.
The laparoscopic surgery is performed using 3 to 4 keyhole sized cuts that are very effective. The blood loss is minimized and the healing takes less, as the scars are truly small. After the procedure is done, the patient will feel less pain than if he/she would have undergone the open surgery.
Open surgery is the classic type of surgery, which consists of a larger sized incision, which is more difficult to heal and which could stimulate severe pain after the procedure is done.
During both types of surgical procedures, the surgeon will need to make the cuts in the groin area and the intestine or any other tissue that has pushed through the muscle will be put back on its initial position. Afterwards, the surgeon will sew the hole and it will make it stronger with a piece of mesh. The mesh will make the are less likely to suffer of a femoral hernia again.
The factors that are influencing the decision of undergoing a laparoscopic surgery or an open surgery are:
- The size of hernia. The size of hernia could significantly influence the decision, as a larger sized femoral hernia will need more space to be handled through.
- The surgeon’s expertise is another highly influencing factor. The surgeon should determine what is best for each patient, depending on the medical condition.
- The costs. A laparoscopic surgery can cost considerably more than an open procedure, but there are some advantages, such as the faster recovery.
Hiatal hernia consists of a bulge through the opening of the diaphragm. Normally, the organ that bulges through the diaphragm is represented by the upper part of the stomach, but it can also be another internal organ. The diaphragm a muscle that separates the thoracic cavity from the abdomen and assists in the process of breathing. One of its characteristics is that it has a hiatus, meaning a small opening through which the esophagus passes before joining linking to the stomach and it is medically referred to as the gastroesophageal junction.
Normally, the small sized hiatal hernias are inoffensive and no symptoms are related to them. But, as the hiatal hernias are getting bigger in size, the more uncomfortable and harmful they could become. The larger hiatal hernias normally need surgery.
There are 4 types of hiatal hernias:
- Type 1 – is the most common type of hiatal hernias and it appears when the gastroesophageal junction is dislocated upwards towards the hiatus;
- Type 2 – appears when the stomach is dislocated towards the mediastinum parallel to the esophagus
- Type 3 – it occurs when both the gastroesophageal junction and a part of the stomach have been displaced into the mediastinum;
- Type 4 – it happens when both the stomach and another organ, such as the colon, small intestine or spleen are displaced into the chest.
Causes of Hiatal hernia
Normally, the causes of hiatal hernia are related to weakness of the muscle and tissue that surround the hiatus.
Also, hiatal hernia could appear due to a valve in between the esophagus and the stomach that moves further from the diaphragm.
Hiatal hernias symptoms
Usually, if you suffer of hiatal hernia, you will have no symptoms.
In case, you are suffering from a more severe type of hiatal hernia, it could become very uncomfortable.
One of the symptoms that are characteristic to this hiatal hernia is the heartburn feeling. It consists of pain or warmth behind the breastbone. It is very common to suffer of heartburn episodes during the night.
Another symptom related to hiatal hernias consists of acid reflux.
Also, this medical condition is the main cause for gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Diagnosing Hiatal hernia
The hiatal hernia is usually identified when the doctor is performing tests for other medical conditions.
In case you are presenting symptoms related to hiatal hernia, your doctor il check if you are actually suffering of gastroesophageal reflux disease.
The main three ways through which hiatal hernia could be determined are:
- X-ray of the upper digestive system;
- Upper endoscopy;
- Esophageal manometry.
Treating Hiatal hernia
As normally you would not have any symptoms, therefore you will need no treatment at all.
But if your scenario consists of a hiatal hernia that is more severe, then treatment could be needed.
The treatment for hiatal hernia could include:
- Antacids that neutralize stomach acid;
- Medications to reduce acid production;
- Medications that block acid production and heal the esophagus.
Moreover, it is highly indicated to adapt new eating habits, as it is highly recommended to:
- Avoid lying down right after eating;
- Avoid chocolate, spicy foods and alcohol;
- Avoid eating late at night;
- Quit smoking.
If the treatments are not effective, then surgery might be required.
The incisional hernia occurs when organs or tissue manage to penetrate the abdominal wall, as it has become weaker, due to a recent surgery.
Incisional hernia occurs only in those who have recently undergone a surgical intervention, usually between 3 to 6 months afterwards, and it is a result of the fact that the abdominal muscle has not fully recovered.
The lump that is characteristic to incisional hernia can be spotted easily during the stand-up moments or during periods of intense physical activity, such as lifting heavy objects.
Causes of Incisional hernia
The incisional hernia is occurring after you have suffered a surgical intervention in the abdominal area, and the muscle wall has not fully closed, yet.
The other factors that are stimulating the appearance of incisional hernia are related to pressure in the abdominal area. Therefore, after surgery, during the recovery time, about 3 to 6 months and your body is not in its normal and healthy state, it is best to avoid the following activities:
- Straining, lifting heavy objects or just putting pressure on the abdomen;
- Restarting the physical activities, such as intense work-out sessions;
- Getting pregnant.
Usually, the bigger the cut of the surgical intervention, the higher the chances it would not heal well. Along with the sewing technique, these two factors can considerably influence the occurrence of incisional hernia.
Incisional hernia symptoms
The usual symptoms of incisional hernia are related to the lump in the proximity of the incision along with:
- Thin stool;
- Burning feeling around the spot of hernia.
Diagnosing Incisional hernia
The diagnosing process of incisional hernia includes a check of the medical history and a physical examination.
Firstly, the doctor will ask about your medical history and will look for eventual similarities with your previous medical conditions. Also, the doctor could ask you to stand up and cough, in order to identify the lump during straining.
Secondly, the doctor will search for the lump by palpating your abdominal area. The doctor will also ask if you are suffering of symptoms of the incisional hernia, such as constipation, or thin stool, nausea and vomiting.
Furthermore, the specialist will need to use a screening technology, such as ultrasound, MRI or CT, in order to obtain a view of the actual situation within your abdominal area.
Blood tests might also be needed.
Treating Incisional hernia
The only way to repair the incisional hernia is with surgical treatment. Therefore, the doctor will make another cut, through which he will put the affected organs on their initial position and it will also apply mesh patches on the tissue around the hernia, in order to reinforce the muscular structure.
The treatment for incisional hernia is normally performed laparoscopically. Therefore, the wound will heal fast and the scars will be minimal.
Umbilical hernia is a condition to which the young children, especially the prematurely born children, are prone to develop. Adults could also develop umbilical hernia.
The umbilical hernia occurs as painless and asymptomatic bulge in the proximity of the belly button. This why it is also referred to as hernia of the belly button.
Usually, the hernia in babies might seem to increase in size during the moments in which the baby is laughing, crying, coughing, due to straining. The lump of umbilical hernia will decrease during the moments when the baby stays relaxed.
Causes of Umbilical hernia
As the umbilical cord gets through an opening in the infant’s tummy, during pregnancy, this opening should heal very soon afterwards the birth. In some cases, this opening does not get hermetically closed and the muscles of the abdominal wall could get considerably weaker. These factors are creating the necessary environment for the bowel to get through the abdominal wall, and reach the navel.
For adults, the causes could be others:
- Constantly straining, due to heavy coughing or lifting heavy objects;
- Being overweight;
- Being pregnant with twins or triplets.
Umbilical hernias symptoms
The hernia in babies is visible just when they are active, due to contractions of the abdominal muscles. Otherwise, it is asymptomatic.
On the other hand, the umbilical hernia could be very uncomfortable for the adults. Beside the visible lump next to the navel, it could be very painful.
The lump could get tender, swollen and discolored, in both children and adults. In such situations it is needed to see a doctor, in order to determine the severity of the condition.
Diagnosing Umbilical hernia
The diagnosing process of umbilical hernia consists of 2 steps. The first one is the physical check, and you or your baby will get palpated on the abdominal area, in order to identify the hernia. Afterwards, the second step is to take X-ray or an ultrasound on the abdominal area, to gain an accurate image of the actual situation.
Treating Umbilical hernia
In infants, the umbilical hernia does not need to be treated, as it heals by itself. For the adults, the situation is quite the opposite. Often all adults who suffer of umbilical hernia are recommended to undergo surgery, only if:
- It becomes painful;
- Its size increases or remains the same over 2 years;
- It obstructs the intestines.
The inguinal hernia, one of the common hernias in men, consists of fatty or intestinal tissue that pushes through the abdominal right next to the inguinal canal. This type of hernia can occur if the abdominal wall presents spots of weakness. If you are suffering of this type of hernia, you might notice a lump in the inguinal canal and it could be painful while walking.
There are four types of inguinal hernias:
- Indirect inguinal hernia – the inguinal canal gets closed off;
- Direct inguinal hernia – it is common within ageing men, as the muscles are getting weaker;
- Incarcerated inguinal hernia – the tissue gets stuck in the groin and it cannot be pushed back to its original place;
- Strangulated inguinal hernia – is the most severe type of inguinal hernia: the intestine does not get any more blood. This situation could be life-threatening and it needs immediate medical intervention.
Causes of Inguinal hernia
The causes of inguinal hernia are mainly the weak spots within the abdominal and groin muscles. There are also other factors that play an important role in the development of inguinal hernia, such as:
- Being overweight;
- Cystic fibrosis;
- Chronic cough;
- Chronic constipation.
Inguinal hernias symptoms
Usually, the symptoms of inguinal hernia are represented just by a barely noticeable bulge in the inguinal area, often within the groin. In some cases, they could become painful during physical activity.
Common symptoms that could be related to inguinal hernia are:
- Pain when straining;
- Feeling of burning;
- A feeling of fullness within the groin.
- Swelling of the scrotum.
Diagnosing Inguinal hernia
The inguinal hernia is diagnosed through a physical exam. The doctor will ask you to cough while standing up, in order to check the lump of hernia at its biggest dimension.
Treating Inguinal hernia
The treatment of inguinal hernia is represented by surgical intervention. This could be either laparoscopic or open inguinal herniorrhaphy. Both methods have the same purpose: to put the organ that is pushing through the wall back to its original position and to reinforce the muscular wall.
Hernias during pregnancy
Hernia in women is a very common condition, especially during pregnancy, as the abdominal wall becomes weaker due to the extra weight of the baby.
Pregnant women could suffer of any type of hernia, as described above. Pregnancy could be just another cause.
Hernia is not necessarily a serious condition, but some types of it could represent an increased risk to your life. It is best to keep hernias under control by visiting regularly the medical specialist.
Also, in order to avoid any uncomfortable medical conditions, you should be careful. Hernia can be easily prevented if you are a little bit careful. In order to steer clear of hernia, you should:
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercising and a healthy diet;
- Always correctly lift heavy objects, try to push with your feet, not with your back;
- Quit smoking and reduce the consume of alcohol.
If you are suffering of any type of hernia, it is very important to discuss with your specialist about it and to keep it under surveillance.