A hernia can be any one of a category of conditions that involve the protrusion of tissue through the muscles that are supposed to hold it in place. There are many different types of hernias, each presenting a little bit differently and requiring different treatment. However, there are a few distinct characteristics that all hernias have in common.
As mentioned above, all hernias are the bulging of an organ or another tissue through the muscular wall surrounding it. When the material breaks through, this typically causes some level of pain. Typically, the amount of pain increases when the location of the hernia is under stress. This can be caused by lifting, twisting, coughing, or stretching. The underlying cause of many hernias is simply weak muscle fibers. In the abdominal cavity and surrounding areas, tissue is held in place by a wall of muscle. These organs, fatty deposits, or other structures are simply held in place by the tension of the muscles in question. When there is weakness in the supportive muscle, small gaps can form, allowing openings for hernias to be created. Once enough pressure has been put on the area, the compressed tissue will forcefully expand out through the cavity in the muscle wall. This small protrusion of tissue is the hernia.
In the case of an inguinal hernia, the soft tissue protrusion is typically a section of the intestines, although it could also be a fatty deposit. This is by far the most common type of hernia, with estimates of almost 25% of men experiencing an inguinal hernia in their lifetime. These hernias are not harmful on their own, but if left untreated can lead to a number of complications. Correctional surgery is a fairly common procedure. In many cases, inguinal hernias can be identified easily through the presence of a small bump in the inguinal region, pain in bending and lifting, weakness, and discomfort associated in coughing.
Femoral hernias are less common than inguinal hernias but cause similar pain. When a section of tissue juts out from the muscular lining of the femoral region, a small lump appears, usually near the inside of the thigh. This obtrusion can cause pain and discomfort, especially when bending, lifting, or coughing. When laying down, the lump may seem to go away on its own. It is usually recommended that, in the case of repeated herniations, corrective surgery is performed.
An umbilical hernia follows the course of a typical hernia but is localized to the umbilical region, at the belly button. These hernias are most commonly found in infants, whose abdominal muscles have not had a chance to fully strengthen and develop. As opposed to standard hernias in adults, umbilical hernias for infants tend to correct themselves. In some cases, though, surgery is needed after a few years to provide a longer-term solution to umbilical hernias. With infants, it is important to communicate with your child’s doctor about signs of pain, vomiting, or swelling in the umbilical region. With adults or children with complications, a simple surgery can typically remediate any problems.
However, a hernia can theoretically develop anywhere that there is a weakness in the muscles responsible for holding in soft tissue. This issue arises most commonly in the case of surgical incisions. An incision creates an opening in the muscular wall which requires time to heal. If enough pressure is exerted within the abdominal cavity before the muscle is completely healed, the internal tissues can project through the weak point, causing a hernia in an area not mentioned above.
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