A hernia is a defect, or hole, in the abdominal wall that allows inside abdominal tissue or an organ to bulge out of its normally contained space. The abdominal wall is comprised of numerous layers of muscles and tissues. Hernias, or weak spots in the tissue may be present at birth, they may develop over time, or occur after a surgical procedure. Anything that creates increased pressure in the abdomen can increase your risk of developing a hernia including lifting heavy objects, persistent coughing or sneezing, and diarrhea or constipation. Likewise, obesity, poor nutrition, and smoking can also increase your risk for hernia by weakening of abdominal muscles.
Signs and symptoms of an abdominal hernia may include:
- Bulge – Patients often will notice or feel a bulge where the hernia develops, which is a sign of the tissue or organ protruding through the hole.
- Swelling – A common complaint with a hernia is a sense of pressure or fullness in the area, which may be relieved by lying down.
- Discomfort or Pain – Pain or discomfort from a hernia can intensify when bending over, coughing, or lifting.
- Burning – The area around the hernia may become inflamed causing a light sensation of burning.
- Severe Cramping – If severe cramping is coupled with constipation, it may be a sign your intestines have become strangulated by the hernia. If nausea or vomiting occurs, seek medical attention immediately.
- Nausea or Vomiting – This can indicate a hernia in need of immediate attention. When a hernia becomes incarcerated, or the tissue cannot go back in, organs can become strangulated and you should seek medical care immediately.
If you think you may have a hernia, discuss it with your physician. While most hernias are not necessarily medical emergencies, all hernias do have the potential to become a serious medical concern. Upon examination of your symptoms and medical history, your primary care physician will likely refer you to a general surgeon to determine if surgical treatment is needed.
If you know you have a hernia and you experience a sudden onset of severe pain that cannot be relieved, seek medical attention immediately. Likewise, as mentioned above, if severe cramping, nausea or vomiting occurs this could be a sign of intestine strangulation and you should be examined by a medical professional immediately.
Hernia repair surgery is one of the most common procedures performed in the United States. Premier Surgical physicians offer the most advanced treatments in hernia treatment for simple as well as complex hernia repair and abdominal wall reconstruction. You can learn more about Premier Surgical physicians and our approach to hernia care on our website.