Hernia: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

A hernia is the abnormal exit (usually a push or spill out) of tissue or an organ, such as the bowel, through the wall of the cavity in which it normally resides. Different types of hernias exist; most commonly involving the abdomen, specifically the groin. Groin hernias are the most common among the inguinal type. Other types include hiatus, incisional, and umbilical hernias.

About 66% of people with groin hernias experience symptoms like pain or discomfort especially with coughing, exercising, or going to the bathroom. Groin hernias occur more often on the right side than the left. The main concern is strangulation, where the blood supply to part of the bowel is blocked, and usually produces severe pain and tenderness of the area. Hiatus or hiatal hernias often result in heartburn and may also cause chest pain or pain while eating.

Hernias are partly genetic and occur more often in certain families. Having said that, it is unclear if groin hernias are associated with heavy lifting. Groin hernias that do not cause symptoms in males, do not need to be repaired, but repair is generally recommended in women due to the higher rate of femoral hernias.

Repair may be done by open or laparoscopic surgery. The open surgery has the benefit of possibly being done under local anesthesia rather than general anesthesia, while laparoscopic surgery generally has less pain following the procedure. Approximately 27% of males and 3% of females develop a groin hernia at some time in their life. In 2015, inguinal, femoral and abdominal hernias were present in 18.5 million people and resulted in 59,800 deaths.

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How Does Hernia Affect Your Body?

When a portion of the intestine slips through the abdominal wall and into the other areas of the body, it affects the organs and structures it encounters. Most of the hernias do not affect the body in serious ways, causing a bulge or swelling under the skin. But in some cases, the loop of the intestine can become trapped outside the abdominal wall. An incarcerated hernia affects the body in serious ways causing intense pain, abdominal cramping, vomiting, or small bowel obstruction.

What Are The Causes of Hernia?

An increase in the pressure in the abdomen is a likely cause of a hernia, and it can be caused due to the following reasons:

  • Lifting heavy objects without stabilizing the abdominal muscles can cause a hernia
  • If suffering from diarrhea or constipation as they increase the pressure near the abdominal area which may cause a hernia
  • Persistent coughing or sneezing may also cause a hernia
  • Obesity, poor nutrition, and smoking can weaken muscles and increase the chances of a hernia
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What Are The Risk Factors of Hernia?

  • Sex – Men are eight times more likely to develop an inguinal hernia than are women.
  • Age – Older people are at a greater risk, as muscle weakens with age.
  • Family history – If the father/mother had a hernia, the chances of the children getting it are high.
  • Smoking – Smoking increases the chances of getting a hernia.
  • Chronic constipation – Constipation causes straining during bowel movements which may cause a hernia.
  • Pregnancy – Weak abdominal muscles cause increased pressure in the abdomen during pregnancy, thus increasing the risk of it.
  • Previous inguinal hernia or hernia repair – Even if a hernia occurred previously, the risk of developing another inguinal hernia is high.
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What Are The Symptoms of Hernia?

Common symptoms of inguinal, femoral, umbilical, and incisional hernias are:

  • Swelling of the abdomen or the groin, which can disappear after lying down.
  • Feeling weight in the abdomen, which is at times accompanied by constipation or blood in the stool.
  • Discomfort in the abdomen or groin area while coughing, lifting weights or bending over.

Symptoms of a hiatal hernia include:

  • Acid reflux, which is when the stomach’s acid moves backward into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation.
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty in swallowing

Not everyone shows symptoms of suffering from a hernia, and are usually caught while having a routine checkup.

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How is Hernia Diagnosed?

  • Inguinal or incisional hernias are usually diagnosed through a physical examination by looking for a bulge in the abdomen or groin that gets larger while standing, coughing, or straining.
  • A hiatal hernia can be diagnosed with a barium X-ray or endoscopy. A barium X-ray is a series of X-ray pictures of the digestive tract, recorded after a liquid solution containing barium is consumed. An endoscopy involves threading a small camera attached to a tube, down the throat, and into the esophagus and stomach, which allows seeing the internal location of the stomach.
  • An ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the structures inside the body which is used in the diagnosis of an umbilical hernia.

How To Prevent And Control Hernia?

The following can prevent or ease the likelihood of a hernia:

  • Maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Avoiding strain during bowel movement or urination
  • Lifting objects with knees and not supporting it with the back
  • Avoiding heavy weight lifting

Treatment of Hernia – Allopathic Treatment

Surgery is the only treatment for a hernia and can be done either through an open or a laparoscopic surgery. Laparoscopic surgery has a faster recovery period and leads to less pain after the procedure is completed.

In case of a hiatal hernia, medications are provided that can relieve discomfort and improve symptoms. These include:

  • Antacids
  • H-2 receptor blockers
  • Proton pump inhibitors
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Treatment of Hernia – Homeopathic Treatment

  • Nux Vomica – This is the best cure for all types of hernias. It is usually given to patients who feel cold and have an excessive craving for stimulants like alcohol or coffee.
  • Calcarea Carbonica – It is prescribed to obese people with weak abdominal muscles due to excessive fat in the abdomen.
  • Lycopodium Clavatum – It is of great help to patients who suffer from weak digestion and excessive flatulence in the abdomen.
  • Rhus Toxicodendron – It is beneficial for the treatment of all cases where the abdominal muscles become weak due to excessive strain by lifting heavy weights. This helps the patients by strengthening the abdominal muscles.
  • Silicea – It is for patients who experience excessive and offensive perspiration on the feet, and is also helpful for the treatment of hernias in children who are weak.

Hernia – Lifestyle Tips

  • Maintain a healthy and constant weight
  • Consume high-fiber foods
  • Lift heavy objects carefully
  • Quit smoking
  • Don’t rely on a truss

What Are The Recommended Exercises For a Person With Hernia?

The following exercises are recommended for a person with a hernia:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Yoga
  • Walking
  • Swimming and other aerobic exercises

Hernia & Pregnancy – Things to Know

  • Pregnant women have an increased risk of hernias, especially umbilical hernia. This is because of the increased pressure exerted on the abdomen during pregnancy.
  • Most hernias in pregnant women are external and may be seen or felt as a bulge under the skin.
  • If a hernia is causing discomfort during pregnancy, it can be repaired by resorting to a surgical procedure. However, this involves little risk.
  • A hernia in pregnant women can be removed after giving birth if there are no unpleasant symptoms.
  • Pregnant women should provide good physical support to the site of a hernia while sneezing, coughing or laughing.
  • Extreme physical activities must be minimized as they can aggravate a hernia.

Common Complications Related to a Hernia

  • Strangulation – Pressure placed on the hernia may compromise the blood supply to a section of an organ or tissue, leading to ischemia, cell death, and even gangrene.
  • Obstruction – When a part of the gut herniates it can lead to cramps, the absence of defecation and vomiting, due to obstruction of the bowel movement.
  • Pressure on surrounding tissues – In men, large hernias, mostly inguinal hernia, can extend into the scrotum, causing pain and swelling.


Q. What are the symptoms of hernias?

A. While some hernias exhibit clear symptoms like pain, discomfort and a bulge in the abdomen, other hernias are discovered only during routine physical examinations by a doctor.

Q. Can trusses be worn to treat a hernia?

A. A truss is not a permanent solution for a hernia and may cause problems if an unrepaired hernia strangulates.

Q. What complications can result from a hernia repair surgery?

A. Complications from a hernia repair surgery are rare. Moreover, every surgery carries a small risk of complications.

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