A hernia occurs when tissue or an organ protrudes, or herniates, through a weak area in the surrounding muscles or tissue in which they are normally stored. This protrusion in the abdominal wall can usually be seen and felt. There are different types of hernias, the most common types being inguinal, umbilical, incisional, and hiatal.
An inguinal hernia is when one’s intestines, or intestinal fat, bulge into the inguinal canal, which is a passage that extends through the abdominal wall and houses nerves and blood vessels in the groin area. There are two types of inguinal hernias: indirect and direct.
- Indirect inguinal hernias can affect even a baby if the lining of their abdomen doesn’t fully close during development, leaving an opening in the upper area of the inguinal canal. This would leave them more susceptible to a hernia.
- Direct inguinal hernias are more common in middle aged and elderly adults due to the weakening of the abdominal wall over time. These hernias are more likely to occur in men because the uterus in women has a broad ligament right behind the abdominal wall which provides support and helps shield the inguinal canal.
Umbilical hernias occur when the opening for the umbilical cord in the abdominal muscle wall fails to completely close near the navel (umbilicus). These hernias are more common in infants but can afflict adults as well. They are also common in women who are pregnant or have given birth because of the added stress in that body region.
After an abdominal surgery, the site(s) where an incision was made can become a weak point in the abdominal wall, thereby heightening the chance of a hernia. This type is most common in elderly and overweight people who do not stay active after an abdominal surgery.
Hiatal hernias occur when the upper most part of one’s stomach pushes through the small opening in the diaphragm where the esophagus passes through. This small opening is called the hiatus. Although small hiatal hernias can be harmless, larger hernias can allow for stomach acid and food to get caught in the esophagus, causing heartburn and other medical issues.
What should I do if I think I may have a hernia?
If you think you may have a hernia, you should contact your doctor. Although some hernias may not cause any symptoms, they do not heal on their own and if left untreated, can lead to potential problems. Healthpointe is here to help. We have several doctors who are experts in the hernia field and have treated countless patients since our establishment in 1974.
Medically reviewed by Dr. Roman Shulze