Have you been experiencing pain or discomfort lately that is worse at the end of the day? Have you also noticed a bulge in the groin, abdomen, thigh or genitals that may get bigger when you stand and go away when you lie down? If so, you may be experiencing a hernia.
A hernia (or "rupture") is a weakness or defect in the wall of the abdomen. This weakness may be present at birth. Or, it can be caused by the wear and tear of daily living.
Although men are more likely to have hernias, they also occur in women and children. Most hernias aren't life-threatening, but treatment can help eliminate discomfort and prevent complications.
When a bulge forms
A weakness or break in the abdominal wall allows the contents of the abdomen to push outward. This often causes a bulge under the skin and also can cause pain or discomfort. Symptoms depend on the size and location of a hernia. Common symptoms include:
A bulge in the groin, abdomen, thigh or genitals. The bulge may get bigger when you stand and go away when you lie down.
Discomfort or pain that is worse at the end of the day or after standing for long periods.
Pain during lifting, coughing, sneezing or physical activities.
A feeling of weakness or pressure in the groin.
Discomfort or pain during urination or bowel movements.
Locations of hernias
The type of hernia you have depends on its location. The most common types of hernias form in the groin. Other types form in the abdomen. Hernias also can appear on both sides of the body (bilateral hernias), and recur in the same spot (recurrent hernias). In some cases, you can have more than one type at a time.
Here are three things to keep in mind about groin hernias:
Indirect inguinal hernias occur at the opening of the inguinal canal
Direct inguinal hernias occur in the groin near the opening for the inguinal canal
Femoral hernias occur in the femoral canal
Abdominal hernias most often form around the navel, at the site of a previous surgery or in the upper abdomen at the midline.
How are hernias treated?
A hernia will not heal on its own. Surgery is needed to repair the defect in the abdominal wall. If not treated, a hernia can get larger and can also lead to serious medical complications. Fortunately, hernia surgery can be done quickly and safely and in most instances is an outpatient procedure. Hernias are one of the most common general surgeries at Fisher-Titus Medical Center.
Tension-free repairs using mesh
Most hernias are treated using "tension-free" repairs. This surgery uses special mesh materials to repair the weak area. Unlike traditional repairs, the abdominal muscle isn't sutured together. Instead, the mesh covers the weak area like a patch. This repairs the defect without "tension" on the muscles. It also makes recovery faster and less painful. The mesh is made of strong, flexible plastic that stays in the body. Over time, nearby tissues grow into the mesh to strengthen the repair.
When a patient has multiple defects, a surgeon also can perform laparoscopic surgery. Through two to four small incisions near the navel, both a laparoscope (a camera) and an instrument to repair damage are inserted allowing the surgeon to see all hernias inside the abdomen and patch them during the same surgery.
After surgery, patients are likely to return to normal routine within a short time and should find it easier to enjoy doing activities without pain or worry.
Dr. Joseph Centa is a board certified general surgeon and member of Fisher-Titus Medical Center's medical staff. His office is located at 34 Executive Drive, Norwalk and can be reached at (419) 668-6655.