A hernia is a painful condition that occurs when an organ is protruding into a weak spot in the surrounding muscle or connective tissue. Different forms of hernias are mainly classified by the location and type of organs that are pushing through the muscle. These include:

Inguinal hernia

Making up about 70 percent of all hernias, inguinal hernias are the most common form of hernia. This occurs when the intestine or the bladder protrudes into the tissues in the lower abdomen wall, often in the inguinal canal. Inguinal hernia is more common in men than in women.

Hiatal hernia

A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach pushes into the hiatus, a diaphragm opening where the esophagus passes through. Hiatal hernias often cause gastroesophageal reflux.

Umbilical hernia

An umbilical hernia occurs when a part of the small intestine passes through the abdominal wall near the navel (bellybutton). This type of hernia is common in newborn, obese women or women who have had many births. This is the only type of hernia than can heal itself over time.

Incisional hernia

An incisional hernia takes place when the intestine pushes through the abdominal wall at an incision site or the surrounding tissues from a previous abdominal surgery. This is common in those who are overweight, elderly or who have not been active after recovering from an abdominal surgery.

Common symptoms of hernias

The first sign of a hernia most people will notice is a bulge or lump in the area where the hernia is taking place. In some cases, there are no symptoms of a hernia. Symptoms often are a result of inguinal or hiatal hernia. Symptoms of inguinal hernia include:

  • Pain in the affected area, especially when bending over, coughing or lifting
  • Burning, gurgling or aching in the area of the hernia bulge
  • Weakness, pressure or a feeling of heaviness in the abdomen

Symptoms of a hiatal hernia include:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Acid reflux

What causes hernias?

All hernias are caused by pressure put on an opening or weakness in the muscle or surrounding tissues. This pressure will push an organ to protrude through the muscle or tissue. Weakened muscles can develop abruptly or over a long period of time, depending on the cause. Common causes of weakened muscles or tissue include:

  • Age
  • Chronic coughing or sneezing
  • Failure of abdominal wall closing properly in the womb (congenital effect)
  • Damage caused from an injury or surgery

Factors that can put excessive strain or pressure on your body:

  • Heavy lifting without stabilized abdominal muscles
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Pregnancy
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Fluid in the abdomen
  • Persistent coughing or sneezing

Diagnosis and treatment

Diagnosis of hernias will depend on which type you may have. Once your doctor evaluates your symptoms, he or she may do a physical exam, a barium X-ray, endoscopy or ultrasound.

Depending on the severity of your case, your doctor will help you develop a treatment plan that caters to your needs. Sometimes hernias do not require treatment and only require simple lifestyle changes, like altering your diet. More severe cases can involve laparoscopic surgery to repair the hernia.

If you or someone you love is displaying hernia-like symptoms, give the pain specialists at Cedar Rapids Pain Associates a call today at (319) 540-8251 to schedule your appointment today.