What is a Hernia?
Some say it is a lump, others say it is a form of Cancer. We want to clearly define a hernia: what it is and what it means to have one.
A Hernia occurs when an organ pushes through an opening in the muscle or tissue that holds it in place. They are most common in the abdomen but can also appear in the upper thigh, belly button and groin areas.
Hernias can be congenital (present at birth) or develop in children who have a weakness in their abdominal wall. In the case of incisional Hernia, it could be a complication of abdominal surgery.
Types of Hernia
These are the most common types of Hernias. They occur when the intestines push through a weak spot or tear in the lower abdominal wall, often in the inguinal canal, which is found in the groin. In men, it is the area where the spermatic cord passes from the abdomen to the scrotum. This cord holds up the testicles. In women, the inguinal canal contains a ligament that helps hold the uterus in place.
This type of hernia is more common in men than in women. This is because a man’s testicles descend through the inguinal canal shortly after birth, and the canal is supposed to close almost completely behind them. Sometimes, however, the canal does not close properly and leaves a weakened area prone to Hernias.
A hiatal hernia occurs when part of your stomach protrudes up through the diaphragm into your chest cavity. This type of hernia is most common in people over 50 years old. If a child has the condition, it is typically caused by a congenital birth defect.
Umbilical hernias can occur in children and babies under 6 months old. This happens when their intestines bulge through their abdominal wall near their belly button. You may notice a bulge in or near your child’s belly button, especially when they are crying. An umbilical hernia is the only kind that often goes away on its own as the abdominal wall muscles get stronger, typically by the time the child is 1 year old. If the hernia has not gone away by this point, surgery may be used to correct it.
Incisional hernias can occur after you have had abdominal surgery. Your intestines may push through the incision scar or the surrounding, weakened tissue.
How are Hernias Diagnosed?
If you have a hernia, your doctor will likely be able to diagnose it during the physical exam. Your doctor may want you to undergo an imaging study, such as an ultrasound or CT scan of your abdomen. Once your doctor confirms an abdominal hernia is present, you can then discuss arrangements for a surgical correction.
If your doctor does not believe the lump is a hernia, they may require further testing. For a small or asymptomatic hematoma or lipoma, you probably will not need further tests.
If a tumor is suspected, you may need imaging tests to determine its location and extent. You will likely also need a biopsy, which involves tissue removal, to determine if the tumor is benign or malignant.
When to seek medical help
If you feel or see a lump in your abdomen that you cannot identify, make an appointment to see your doctor. If you also have a fever, vomiting, discoloration, or severe pain around the lump, you may need emergency care. At your doctor’s appointment, you can expect to receive a physical examination of your abdomen. Your doctor may ask you to cough or strain in some way while they are examining your abdomen.