Getting to Know Hernias: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Many of us have heard and seen a lump called a hernia. Did you know that hernias can occur in various areas of the body, with the part of the body most often affected being the groin area. A hernia is a gap in the strong tissue that holds muscles in place, causing a bulge to appear in the weak area.

Most hernias occur because part of the intestine or the lining of the abdominal wall pushes against a gap in the abdominal wall. Hernias can occur in babies and elderly people. Several risk factors are known to increase the risk of hernias, namely obesity which increases pressure in the abdominal cavity, tumors in the abdominal cavity, pregnant women, smoking, diabetes, and in people who often lift heavy objects and coughing can increase the size of existing hernia lumps.

There are several types of hernias that can occur in the human body.

  • An inguinal hernia is a lump that occurs when part of the intestine or fatty tissue in the abdominal cavity sticks out into the groin. This type of hernia often occurs in men, with a prevalence of 25 out of 100 men. Meanwhile, the prevalence in women is lower, namely 2 out of 100 women.
  • A femoral hernia is a lump in the form of fatty tissue or part of the intestine sticking out of the inner upper thigh. The risk is higher in women who are pregnant or overweight (obese).
  • An umbilical hernia occurs when part of the intestine or fatty tissue pushes against the abdominal wall in the navel area. This type of hernia is experienced by babies and children under 6 months, which occurs because the abdominal wall in the baby's navel area fails to close.
  • An incisional hernia occurs when tissue or intestines protrude through a surgical scar in the abdomen or pelvis. This can happen if the surgical wound does not close completely.
  • A diaphragmatic hernia occurs when part of the stomach organ sticks out into the chest cavity through an opening in the diaphragm. This occurs when the formation of the diaphragm is less than perfect.

Signs and symptoms of a hernia are a lump in the stomach or groin area that initially does not feel painful. These lumps can come and go depending on body position. Often the lump gets smaller or even disappears when lying down but will get bigger when the sufferer stands up.

Hernia sufferers must be aware of the occurrence of strangulated hernias or conditions where the intestines or tissue are trapped so that blood supply to the tissue is reduced. There are several danger signs that hernia sufferers should be aware of, namely:

  • Severe pain and redness in the area of the lump,
  • Sudden pain that gets worse quickly,
  • Disturbances in bowel movements resulting in difficulty passing gas,
  • Nauseous vomit
  • Fever

Management of a hernia begins with a doctor's evaluation regarding the patient's general condition, the type and location of the hernia, the symptoms that appear, the contents of the hernia, and signs of possible complications. So based on these considerations, it is decided what surgery is right for the patient. During surgical treatment, the hernia sac will be returned to the abdominal cavity and then the hernia gap will be closed thereby strengthening the abdominal wall to prevent the hernia from returning.

Types of surgery that can be performed include open surgery where the incision size is larger and laparoscopic or keyhole surgery with a smaller incision size. Apart from that, patients can also wear "hernia belts" or a hernia belt that can support it so that the lump does not appear prominent, but this does not actually treat the hernia.

If you have a lump in the stomach, groin or thigh area, don't hesitate to immediately see a doctor to get the right treatment.

Article written by dr. Irawan Sukarno, Sp. B (General Surgery Specialist at EMC Cikarang Hospital).