Hernias occur when body organs push through an opening in the walls surrounding the organs. This can happen with the stomach and the brain, but the most common organ that will herniate is the intestines. Intestinal hernias will make themselves known through bulges in the stomach, scrotum, thigh, side and lower abdomen.
Causes and Risk Factors
Intestinal hernias are caused by weaknesses in the abdominal wall, which surrounds the intestines. These weaknesses can be genetic but also caused by pregnancy.
Signs and Symptoms for Reducible Hernias
Many times, hernias will show no symptoms. The unusual bulge from a hernia is usually the most noticeable sign you have one. The bulge might ache but not be painful or it could be very tender. While many things could produce such bulges, if it grows in size when you stand or strain, it is probably a hernia. Another sign of a hernia is it can be pushed back inside the abdomen. This is called reducing.
Signs and Symptoms for Irreducible Hernias
Because of entanglements with other organs and tissue, some hernias can't be reduced. These hernias are more painful and can cause bowel obstruction, nausea and vomiting. The danger with these hernias is the blood supply can be cut off. This is called strangulation. The hernia will be painful and tender if this is the case. The person with the hernia might even look and feel ill, though the person won't have a fever. At this point, the hernia has become a medical emergency that requires surgery.
If the hernia is reducible and causing minor pain, a doctor might recommend the patient wear a truss. This is a garment designed to put pressure on the hernia and hold it in. Painful or irreducible hernias will require surgery. With open surgery, the doctor will use local anaesthesia and make a small cut in the patient near the herniated area. The intestines are then pushed back inside the abdominal wall and the wall is sewn shut. This is the most common treatment. Laparoscopic surgery uses general anaesthesia and three small cuts (smaller in total than the open-surgery cut). The doctor then uses a laparoscope and small instruments, all inserted through the incisions to push the intestines back in place. The opening is then stapled shut.
Whether you get an intestinal hernia is nearly out of your control. But there are things you can do to lower the risk. Avoid being overweight and straining to lift things. Obesity and strain create pressure on the abdominal wall that could start a hernia. Also, exercise your abdominal muscles to strengthen them so they can withstand more pressure against them.