Help for Hernias

submitted by Steve McElveen, M.D.
Center for Specialized Surgery • 407-303-7399 •

Hernias are common  — and often extremely uncomfortable — ailments that affect people of all ages. Though there are several types of hernias, they generally occur when part of an organ, usually the intestines, sticks through a weak point or tear in the thin muscular wall that holds the abdominal organs in place. The weakness of this area can be caused by many different factors, including pregnancy, age, drastic weight loss or obesity, prior surgery, excessive lifting or you can be born with a hernia that may not become symptomatic until later in life.

Steve McElveen, M.D., of Florida Hospital Medical Group’s Center for Specialized Surgery.

Most hernias occur in the groin (inguinal or femoral hernias), under the belly button (umbilical hernias), or through a surgical incision (ventral or incisional hernias). Depending on the severity of the hernia, discomfort ranges from mild irritation to debilitating pain. Some hernias are even visible to the naked eye, bulging beneath the skin.

Hernias generally get larger with time and usually do not resolve on their own. In fact, though more than 5 million Americans suffer from hernias, less than 1 million of them seek treatment, because they are nervous about surgery. The good news is advancements in minimally invasive hernia repairs mean smaller incisions and faster recovery.

During surgery, the bulging tissue or organ is placed back inside the muscle wall, and the muscle tissue is repaired. For hernia repairs in the groin area, a small piece of plastic mesh may be used to fix the defect in the muscle tissue. Most people recover from a hernia surgery within two to four weeks.

When a Hernia Is an Emergency

A hernia that cannot be pushed back into the abdominal wall using pressure may be trapped or strangulated. Without treatment, a strangulated section of the intestine will die, because the blood supply is inadequate. A strangulated hernia may cause nausea, vomiting or both. Other symptoms include sudden pain that quickly intensifies; a bulge that turns red, purple or dark; and an inability to move your bowels or pass gas. Urgent surgery is required for strangulated hernias.

Though there are several different types of hernias, common symptoms can include:

  • Bulge under the skin, the groin, naval area or sites of previous operations.
  • Burning sensation in the groin.
  • Pain when lifting, coughing or straining while urinating or having bowel movements.
  • Pain may be sharp, sudden or both.
  • Pain may be dull.
  • Pain may get worse at the end of the day or when standing for long periods of time.
  • Severe, continuous pain with signs of redness and tenderness. ♥
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