A hernia is a common, sometimes painful condition which occurs when part of an organ or tissue pushes or bulges through a muscle. There are several different types of hernias.
Types of Hernias
Most hernias happen in the abdomen. The type of hernia depends on where the hernia is located in the abdomen.
- Epigastric: Located in the upper abdomen
- Femoral: Occurs in the outer groin or upper thigh
- Inguinal: The most common type, occurs in the inner groin area
- Umbilical: Happens near or around the belly button
- Incisional: Occurs through a scar or other incision in the abdomen
- Hiatal: When the upper part of the stomach moves into chest by way of a small opening in the diaphragm
Hernias are usually caused by a combination of straining and muscle weakness, but can also be present at birth.
Symptoms of Hernias
Common symptoms of hernias include:
- Discomfort in the abdomen or groin, especially when bending or leaning over
- Heavy or dragging feeling in the abdomen
- Bulge or swelling in the abdomen which may be tender to the touch
- Hiatal hernia symptoms include those as above, but may be accompanied by upper abdominal pain and heartburn.
- Epigastric hernia symptoms also include the symptoms above, as well as pain, nausea and vomiting, or fever.
See a doctor if…
- You have not been diagnosed as having a hernia, but suspect you may have one
- If you know you have a hernia but cannot push it back into place, as this may be a sign of a strangulated hernia
- If you know you have a hernia and experience pain, nausea, vomiting, or cannot have a bowel movement, as you may have a strangulated hernia or other obstruction
What is an Incarcerated Hernia?
An incarcerated hernia, also known as ‘strangulated hernia’, is not its own category of hernia; it is a condition which can occur to any type of hernia.
An incarcerated hernia occurs when loop of intestine becomes trapped in the wall of the abdomen. When the intestine is trapped, it can result in strangulation of the hernia, which in turn cuts off the blood supply to the intestine. An incarcerated hernia can be life-threatening if not treated promptly. Surgery is most often required to correct the hernia and restore normal blood supply to the intestine.
Symptoms of an incarcerated hernia include:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Hernia bulge which becomes discolored (usually dark, purple, or red)
- Pain which quickly intensifies
How are Hernias Treated?
Hernias vary in size from small to very large. Small hernias may not cause symptoms. As a result, your doctor may take a ‘wait and see’ approach to see if the hernia enlarges or causes pain before recommending surgery. Surgery is the only way to treat hernias.
- Open hernia repair: An invasive procedure where the surgeon makes an incision above the affected area and pushes the hernia back into place. The weakened area is then sewn together and strengthened using synthetic mesh.
- Laparoscopy: A minimally invasive procedure where the surgeon performs the operation by using several small incisions in the abdomen instead of a single large incision.
Consult with your doctor to determine which type of hernia surgery is best for you.
What to Expect After Hernia Surgery
Hernia surgery recovery time depends on the type of surgery you receive. You may experience minor incisional pain after hernia surgery as well as some discomfort. You will most likely be prescribe pain medication for both types of surgery.
- Open hernia repair recovery time may take 4 – 6 weeks. It’s important to rest, especially during the first 24 – 48 hours, but you are encouraged to walk as much as you comfortably can. You may find that you fatigue easily for the first three weeks after surgery. Do not return to strenuous exercise or heavy lifting until you have had a follow-up appointment and your doctor has cleared you to resume normal activity.
- Laparoscopic hernia surgery recovery time may take 2 weeks. You can shower and return to your normal diet on the first day. You can also use a treadmill to walk on the first day. It’s important to hold off on intensive exercise and heavy lifting (25 pounds or more) for at least 2 weeks, or when you are completely free from pain and discomfort.
It’s important care for your incisions after hernia repair surgery, following the instructions your doctor provides. Swelling and bruising or discoloration is normal after surgery. Red, hot, or tender incisions may indicate an infection; it’s important to call your doctor as soon as possible in this case.