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How To Know if You Have a Hernia

August 18, 2023

If you’re noticing strange bumps or lumps in your body, you may have a hernia, which is very common and can be easily treated. Here is what you need to know if you suspect you may have one.

What Is a Hernia?

A hernia occurs when tissue or part of an organ pushes out through a hole in the body. Abdominal hernias tend to show up suddenly and can usually be seen easily, appearing like a bump or bulge. Your hernia may shrink or even disappear after you sleep, but typically it will reappear after a day of activity. The most common areas where abdominal hernias appear are:

  • In your lower chest through your diaphragm
  • In your groin through your lower abdominal wall
  • Along the front midline of your abdomen
  • Through a former abdominal surgery incision

What Causes a Hernia

Your hernia may be due to a variety of reasons, such as:

  • If you lift too much weight or use improper form when lifting
  • If you already have a hole or defect in a part of your body where the hernia appears
  • A weakness in the abdominal wall caused by surgery or trauma
  • Obesity, which increases your likelihood of a hernia

What To Do If You Suspect You Have a Hernia

See your doctor, who can most often diagnose a hernia by a simple physical exam. In some cases, an ultrasound or CT scan may be required. You will have to decide if your hernia bothers you. If it does, you may ask your doctor about possible treatments. The most common fix is surgery.

If you choose to wait, keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t grow in size or intensity. However, if you don’t take action, you risk the hernia increasing in size. By the time you decide to have surgery, you might be risking further complications, such as having part of your intestines now stuck in the herniated area, which could cause an emergency.

Options, such as a hernia belts, may help to alleviate your symptoms, but there are no alternative long-term cures other than surgery.

Depending on the complexity of your hernia, the surgery for a hernia is typically open surgery or a minimally invasive surgery. In some cases, a mesh may be inserted in your abdominal wall or wherever the site of the hernia is to reinforce the repair.

How To Reduce Your Risk of Hernias

There are ways to try to prevent hernias, including:

  • Exercise to strengthen weak areas
  • Use proper lifting technique
  • Avoid constipation so you don’t strain
  • Avoid anything that makes you cough too much
  • Avoid being overweight

When Is a Hernia an Emergency?

Some hernias, known as strangulated hernias, are extremely painful and require emergency care. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Your skin around the area is hard
  • You experience nausea and vomiting
  • You’re not having bowel movements
  • You’re not passing gas

A regular hernia can also be an emergency when it contains part of an organ. If the lump or bulge doesn’t naturally recede into your body and if it causes nausea and vomiting, it’s time for emergency care.

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