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Hernia is a condition that usually happens in your groin (private area) or abdomen (lower stomach). An organ such as your intestines can push out between the muscles, which causes a bulge under the skin. This lump is usually visible.
There are many types of hernia, including:
Although a bulge in the area is a common symptom of several types of hernia, different kinds of hernia have different symptoms. Sometimes the bulge can come and go. Sometimes there is no pain or discomfort.
Common symptoms of a hernia are:
See a doctor right away if:
The main causes of hernia include:
When you visit a health care provider about a hernia, they usually will start with a simple physical exam. Depending on what kind of hernia you have, this may be enough to diagnose your condition. Your health care provider may be able to see or feel the hernia pushing through. They might ask you to cough or adjust your position so they can see if or how the hernia moves. Sometimes a hernia can be physically pushed back in, which can help determine how serious it is. If the health care provider can’t determine if you have a hernia, they may order a soft tissue test such as an abdominal ultrasound, CT scan or MRI.
The most common treatment for hernia is surgery, although you probably won’t need it immediately (unless you have symptoms such as fever, chills, nausea and vomiting, or the hernia goes numb or changes color). If the hernia is small or only pushes out sometimes, your health care provider may want to wait and see if it gets worse. Hernias don’t go away on their own and typically will need surgery at some point.
During this common procedure, the surgeon will push the tissue of the hernia back into place. Surgical mesh or stitches are used to keep in in place. This surgery usually is done with minimally invasive techniques, which means small incisions and less scarring, usually less postoperative pain and faster recovery.
Laparoscopic surgery uses a long, thin tube with a lighted camera on the end to look inside the surgical site. A second thin tube is inserted, through which long, thin surgical tools can be used to repair the herniated tissue. Robotic-assisted surgery for hernia repair is similar, but the surgeon controls the tools from a computer console, using robotic arms. Some hernias may need traditional more invasive open surgery.
You may be able to stop a hernia from getting worse, or from recurring, by making some changes in your lifestyle:
There are also some risk factors that may make it more likely that you will develop a hernia.
You may be more likely to develop a hernia if you have:
You also may be at higher risk for hernia if you smoke.
Most hernias are reducible, which means that the herniated tissue can be pushed back into the abdominal cavity. However, some hernias are irreducible (also called incarcerated hernias), which means they cannot be pushed back to their correct position.
This can cause the following complications from hernia:
A small hernia might never bother you. All hernias, however, tend to grow bigger over time. As the opening continues to weaken and stretch, the more tissue gradually works its way through. The more tissue that pushes through, the more likely it is to become incarcerated, leading to pain and other complications.
Surgeons at Norton Audubon Hospital have had additional training in complex hernia repairs, including component separation and minimally invasive options for repair. Our specialists are actively involved in the Abdominal Core Health Quality Collaborative, an organization with a mission to improve outcomes for hernia patients. Our board-certified physicians are nationally recognized specialists in hernia repair. Make an appointment via Norton MyChart or call (502) 636-7111.
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