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Understanding the Different Types of Hernias

Understanding the Different Types of Hernias

Hernias happen when part of an organ — usually the intestine — “pokes” through a weakness in muscle tissue that holds the organ in place. Although they sound unusual, hernias are very common. About 10% of Americans will develop some hernia within their lifetimes, and every year in the United States, about 800,000 people have their hernias surgically repaired.

At Desert West Surgery, our surgeons are skilled in hernia repair techniques aimed at helping patients relieve symptoms, recover quickly, and prevent complications. Here’s what you should know about the most common types of hernias and how they’re treated.

Hernia basics

Most hernias happen when the intestine pushes through a weak spot in the abdominal wall. The five most common types of hernias are listed below.

Inguinal hernia

Inguinal hernias occur in the abdomen, typically the lower abdomen near the groin. These hernias are very common — about 800,000 inguinal hernia repair surgeries are performed each year in the United States.

These hernias typically appear as a bulge in the groin area that becomes more visible when you cough or strain. Other symptoms include:

Men who have inguinal hernias may have swelling around the testicles.

Femoral hernia

Femoral hernias are uncommon, representing less than 3% of all hernias. These occur in the upper thigh area, near the groin, and are more common among women than men. 

Many femoral hernias don’t cause any symptoms, but when they do occur, they include:

Femoral hernias occur most often in adults. When they happen in children, they’re often associated with connective tissue disorders.

Incisional hernia

Incisional hernias form around the site of a surgical incision. As many as a third of people having abdominal surgery will develop an incisional hernia, and about 20% of all abdominal hernias are incisional hernias.

Most incisional hernias happen within six months after surgery, but they can occur earlier or later. They’re more common among people who engage in strenuous activities before the area is completely healed or gain a lot of weight in the belly area.

Umbilical hernia

Umbilical hernias happen when there’s a weakness in the abdominal wall below the navel. They’re most common in infants, but they can also affect adults, often due to obesity. Hernias that happen above the navel are sometimes called epigastric hernias.

Hiatal hernia

Hiatal hernias occur higher up in the torso when the stomach pushes through an opening in the diaphragm muscle. 

The diaphragm muscle separates your stomach area from your upper chest. The hiatus is a small opening in the diaphragm that allows the esophagus to pass through. In a hiatal hernia, part of the stomach bulges up through this opening into your chest.

Hiatal hernias may cause chronic heartburn and reflux, but many hiatal hernias cause no symptoms.

Treating hernias

The only way to “fix” a hernia is to surgically repair it. While some mild, asymptomatic hernias may be closely monitored initially, most will eventually need surgery to relieve symptoms and prevent more serious problems. 

Without medical treatment, a hernia can eventually become strangulated, cutting off blood flow to the part of the protruding organ. Strangulation is a potentially life-threatening complication that requires emergency surgery.

At Desert West Surgery, our surgeons offer both traditional “open” surgery and minimally invasive surgery to repair hernias. In open surgery, one larger incision is made. In contrast, minimally invasive surgery uses several tiny incisions and a special instrument called a laparoscope to see the hernia and repair it.

Many hernia repair surgeries use a special surgical mesh to strengthen the area around the hernia. The mesh helps prevent the hernia from recurring.

Don’t ignore a hernia

If you have a hernia or suspect you might, early diagnosis is crucial for preventing complications. To learn more about hernia treatment at our three locations in Las Vegas, Nevada, book an appointment online or over the phone today.

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