Hernia is a medical condition, wherein a part of an internal organ or its muscular wall protrudes through the cavity that holds that organ. Usually, the condition develops on locations with weak tissues that are prone to herniation. There are many types of hernias that are classified on the basis of their anatomical location. Among them, abdominal hernias are very common.
Abdominal Hernia Types
An abdominal hernia is that hernia, which develops in the abdominal region (between the thorax and the pelvis). Abdominal organs or fatty tissues protrude through a weakened spot in the abdominal wall, resulting in hernia. It has been observed that in most cases, abdominal hernia involves intestines. There are different types of abdominal hernia like, inguinal (groin) hernia, femoral hernia, umbilical hernia or belly button hernia, incisional hernia, spigelian hernia, obturator hernia, and epigastric hernia. Inguinal hernia (lower abdominal hernia) is most common in men, and femoral hernia is commonly seen in females. A lower abdominal hernia may cause sharp pain in the affected area. This condition is often linked to obesity, lifting heavy objects, chronic cough, persistent sneezing, straining during a bowel movement or urination, pregnancy, chronic lung disease, and fluid in the abdominal cavity.
Common Symptoms
Usually, those with abdominal hernia develops a soft bulge anywhere in the abdomen, pelvic area, scrotum, or labia; as the organs protrude through the abdominal cavity. If the herniation occurs inside the cavity itself, the characteristic bulge may not be seen. In that case, the affected person may not experience any symptom, until he develops complications like strangulation. The bulge caused by an abdominal hernia can be reducible or irreducible. In both cases, the affected person may or may not experience pain. A reducible hernia can be pushed back into the abdominal cavity, but this is not possible with an irreducible hernia.
Reducible Hernia: It may appear as a bulge or lump in the groin or abdominal area. Such a bulge increases in size when the affected person stands up or indulges in activities (like, coughing or sneezing) that produce some kind of abdominal pressure. The condition may cause pain, and the bulge may not be tender on touch. A reducible hernia may turn irreducible as it gets larger. The affected person may not develop pain during the initial stages of the condition.
Irreducible Hernia: A bulge that cannot be pushed back into the abdominal cavity right from the initial stages is called an irreducible (or incarcerated) hernia. Even a reducible hernia may turn irreducible as it gets larger. This hernia can be occasionally painful. In some cases, an irreducible hernia may not cause any pain for a long time. Unlike the reducible hernia, where the herniated material moves freely in and out of the herniated sack (or bulge), an irreducible hernia cannot be moved or pushed in. In such cases, tissues become trapped in the herniated sack and there is a risk of strangulation (lack of blood supply to the trapped part). In case of intestinal obstruction, the affected person may experience pain, digestive problems, nausea, and vomiting.
Strangulated Hernia: As mentioned earlier, an irreducible abdominal hernia may get entrapped in the hernial sack, and may face a blood supply cut off. Such a strangulated hernia can cause pain, tenderness of the affected area, bowel obstruction (characterized by nausea and vomiting), and fever. Other symptoms include blood in the stool, constipation, severe pain, gangrene of the area, and shock. Emergency medical attention is required, if a person develops such symptoms.
In general, the pain associated with abdominal hernia can be as mild as a dull ache or very severe. The pain may worsen while coughing, urinating, lifting heavy objects, and during bowel movements. Medical attention is necessary, even if the symptoms are mild. Timely treatment is good for preventing complications like bowel obstruction and strangulation. The most common treatment for almost all types of hernia is a surgical procedure, which does not require any long-term lifestyle changes.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.