Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,
Is it possible to have a hernia and not know it?
Dear Ignorant bliss,
Yes, it is possible to have a hernia and not know it. Many people often find out about a hernia during a routine medical check-up or during an examination for another medical condition.
WHAT IS A HERNIA?
A hernia is when an organ bulges or protrudes through a defective gap in the abdominal wall. Males and females of any age can have hernias. Hernias can occur in various locations such as the abdomen, belly button, groin, and upper thigh. A common hernia occurs in the groin area mainly affecting males and is called an inguinal hernia. Surgical repair of an inguinal hernia is the most common surgery performed in children and teenagers.
Generally, a hernia is not a serious medical condition. However, there could be a potential risk of becoming strangulated. If the blood supply is cut off, then it becomes a medical emergency.
WHAT CAUSES A HERNIA?
Hernias may have developed from a congenital defect from birth, but become more apparent after straining the muscles in the abdominal area. Hernias can also develop from an incision from prior abdominal surgery.
Some types of body strains that could induce a hernia are heavy lifting, constipation, persistent coughing, sneezing, weight gain, and pregnancy.
HOW TO PREVENT HERNIAS
While little can be done to prevent a weak abdominal wall, there are some tips to help keep hernias from developing or worsening.
1. Avoid heavy lifting. But, if lifting heavy object, do so properly, bending at the knees not the waist.
2. Eat healthy. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, keep hydrated.
3. Exercise. Maintain a healthy body weight.
3. Regular physical check ups.
SYMPTOMS OF HERNIAS
There are a range of symptoms depending on the severity of the hernia from painless lump in the area around the groin or abdomen to a painful and tender protrusion. In more severe cases, nausea and vomiting may occur.
TREATMENT OF HERNIAS
The main treatment for a hernia is surgical repair of the opening in the muscle wall. Generally, the surgery is done on an outpatient basis where the patient goes home shortly after the surgery.
Two main types of surgical repair are open surgery and laparoscopic repair. With open surgery, recovery could take 4-6 weeks; laparoscopic repair recovery is usually within a week.
However, the downside is that the recurrence of the hernia may be higher for laparoscopic repair, but it could have been due to the experience of the surgeon. In one study, surgeons who performed more than 250 laparoscopic repairs had recurrence rates similar to the rate for open repairs, below 5 percent (Neumayer, et. al., 2004).
Various hernia treatment and surgical options should be discussed with your doctor.