What is Hernia ?
An abdominal hernia occurs when a portion of an internal organ (usually the intestine) bulges through a weakened segment of the abdominal muscle wall. A layered sheath of muscle that normally keeps the internal organs firmly in place covers the abdominal cavity. If a segment of this muscle wall becomes weak or slack, a portion of an underlying organ can protrude through. This can occur without the sufferer even knowing he or she has a hernia; but generally sufferers notice a bulge at the site of the weakness. Hernias can occur anywhere in the body but are most common in the abdominal area.
Specific types of hernias include:
- Epigastric hernia. This occurs in the upper abdomen, between the breastbone (sternum) and the navel. It is more common in men than women, and can cause tenderness in the area, indigestion, belching and sometimes vomiting.
- Paraumbilical hernia. This develops around the navel and is more common in women than in men. It can produce constipation and can sometimes cause abdominal pain.
- Inguinal hernia. This occurs in the groin area, and is generally found in men or male babies.
- Femoral hernia. This is similar to an inguinal hernia, except it is lower in the groin. It is most common in women who are overweight or have had several children.
- Umbilical hernia. This occurs in newborn babies and appears as a bulge at the navel.
- Incisional hernia. This occurs after abdominal surgery, at the site where the muscle was cut.
Causes of an Abdominal Hernia
Hernias are caused by weakening or tear in the muscle wall that covers the abdominal cavity. Pregnancy, surgery and obesity can be precipitating factors. Some hernias occur suddenly, for example, when you cough or strain to lift a heavy object. Others will evolve over a few days or even weeks. The weakness in the muscle wall may have been present since birth. Generally, a hernia will become progressively worse as time goes on.