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Hernias Demystified: Causes, Risks, and Prevention Strategies

An image of three people, two appear to be senior parents and the son in the middle, paired with a blog post on Hernias.

Hernias Demystified: Causes, Risks, and Prevention Strategies

Many ailments can affect the abdominal area; one of the worst is a hernia. A hernia develops when an area in the peritoneum (abdominal wall) becomes so weak that internal contents of the body protrude and create a bulge. Hernias can affect both adults and children, and according to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, they can present a variety of symptoms such as a bulge in the affected area, increasing pain, nausea, vomiting, abdominal distention, fever, inability to pass gas, and red/purple discoloration of the overlying skin. Let’s explore some key things everyone needs to know about hernias.

What Causes Hernias?
Hernias can be caused by a wide range of factors, some of which people control, and others don’t. What causes a hernia typically depends on the type of hernia. Let’s explore a few common types of hernias and their causes:

  • Inguinal hernias. This is the most common type of hernia, usually affecting men. An inguinal hernia occurs when the groin area presents weak spots, allowing contents from the abdominal cavity to protrude. This may lead to a bulge forming in the affected area, pain, or both.
  • Umbilical hernia. This is another common type of hernia that affects the belly button area, medically known as the umbilicus. Umbilical hernias occur when the belly button area presents weak spots, allowing the groin or abdominal tissues to push through. Umbilical hernias mostly affect newborns since they have weak tissues and typically heal as the child grows without the need for surgical intervention. While umbilical hernias mostly affect children, they can also develop in adults with pregnancies or medical conditions such as constipation, obesity, liver disease, or lung issues that cause chronic cough.
  • Incisional hernia. When a person undergoes abdominal surgery, the incisions made can weaken the abdominal wall, especially if they take long to heal. Incisional hernias occur when the contents of the abdominal cavity push through weaknesses caused by such incisions.
  • Hiatal hernia. Also known as diaphragmatic hernias, hiatal hernias are a little different from the other types of hernias we’ve covered since you can’t see them from the outside and typically affect the diaphragm, not the abdominal wall. Once affected, part of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm into the chest, causing symptoms such as heartburn, chest pains, and a sour taste in the mouth.

A good surgeon in Miami can help treat different types of hernias.

Who’s At Risk Of Getting Hernias?
Anyone can get a hernia, but some people are more at risk depending on various factors they may or may not have control over. Here are some hernia risk factors to keep in mind:

  • Obesity. Being overweight can lead to different types of hernias. The added weight puts a lot of pressure on the abdomen, and if there are any weaknesses in the peritoneum, the pressure can push the contents of the abdominal cavity through and cause a hernia.
  • Illness and Trauma. Certain illnesses may cause wear and tear of the abdominal wall, leading to hernias. For example, tumors affecting the stomach area may increase the pressure exerted on the abdominal wall. Similarly, trauma to the abdomen may cause weak spots in the abdominal wall, leading to hernias.
  • Old age. As people age, various tissues and organs become weaker. The same can happen to abdominal tissues, leading to a hernia.
  • Pregnancy. Pregnancy can significantly increase pressure on the abdominal walls, creating weaknesses that can later lead to hernias. While any pregnant woman can be affected by hernias, it typically affects women with repeat pregnancies.
  • Heavy lifting. People whose jobs involve heavy lifting and many hours of standing are more susceptible to hernias. Lifting heavy weights in the gym without wearing protective straps may also cause hernias or make existing hernias worse.
  • Birth defects. Being born prematurely, low birth weight and other birth defects may increase the likelihood of umbilical hernias.
  • Smoking. According to studies, smoking can weaken and destroy connective tissue over time. If this happens to the abdominal wall, it can lead to a hernia.
  • Constipation. Constipation can increase the pressure on the abdominal wall and create weaknesses. It also makes it hard to have proper bowel movements, which also increases the risk of hernias.

How to Prevent Hernias
While it may be impossible to prevent some types of hernias—such as umbilical hernias affecting babies—certain things can be done to prevent others.

  • Stop smoking. smoking damages connective tissue and can increase the amount of time needed to heal incisions. Creating a smoking cessation plan that suits your needs can help reduce the risk of hernias.
  • Weight reduction. If you’re obese, your risk of developing different types of hernias is greatly increased. Maintaining a healthy body weight can help keep hernias at bay. Regular exercise and a healthy diet are the most effective ways to lose weight.
  • Avoid heavy lifting. whether at work or during exercise, it’s important to only lift weights that your body can comfortably lift. If you must do some heavy lifting, bend at the knees and avoid holding your breath during the lift.
  • Avoid constipation by eating high-fiber foods.

How to Treat Hernias
Apart from umbilical hernias in newborns, which usually heal on their own as the child grows, most other types of hernias require surgery. This surgery usually involves removing or pushing the hernia sac back into the patient’s abdomen. The surgeon then closes the abdominal wall with stitches and may also place fine synthetic mesh on the affected area to prevent a return of the hernia. In the past, patients required open operations that resulted in significant scarring to get rid of hernias. Thankfully, minimally invasive techniques by experts not only reduce pain but also provide excellent cosmetic results. If you have a hernia, please contact Elite Surgical Miami for a consultation.

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