Identifying Different Kinds of Hernias

Published: 17th May 2010
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Hernias can be painful or painless and - in some cases - dangerous. For these reasons, it is important to learn about the different types of hernias and why you should consider hernia surgery should one occur. A hernia happens when part of the body cavity bulges out of the area in which it is normally contained. This usually occurs in the intestine or abdominal fatty tissue. The term "hernia" is mostly used to describe bulges that happen in the lower torso. Some hernias do not produce any symptoms, but they all carry a risk. The blood supply to a herniated area can be cut off, and if this happens in the abdominal wall, immediate hernia repair is needed. The tissue is being cut off from the oxygen and blood that it needs.

There are several different kinds of hernias. Some are more prevalent in women, while others happen more often in men. Here is an outline of seven different kinds of hernias and how patients can recognize them.

• Inguinal, or groin, hernia: This kind of hernia accounts for nearly 75 percent of all abdominal wall hernias. They are about 25 percent more likely to occur in men. There are two different kinds of inguinal hernias - direct and indirect. Both impact the groin area where the skin of the thigh joins the torso. Indirect hernias can occur at any age, but direct hernias are more common in middle age and elderly men. Hernia surgeons should be able to push the bulge back into place.

• Femoral hernia: The femoral canal is the path through which the femoral artery, vein and nerve leave the abdominal cavity and enter the thigh. This can become enlarged when abdominal contents protrude into the femoral canal. This usually occurs in women and has the greatest risk for not being able to be pushed back in.

• Umbilical hernia: This type accounts for between 10 and 30 percent of all hernias. In most cases, an umbilical hernia can be noted at birth as a protrusion of the belly button. This kind of hernia is caused by an opening in the abdominal wall. If the opening is small - less than half an inch - it will likely close before the child is two years old. In the case of larger openings, surgery may be necessary to close it. Generally this surgery occurs when the child is between two and four years old. Even after the opening closes, the area will be weaker and will be more susceptible to problems later in life. Hernias occur most often during pregnancy or while giving birth because the area is under stress.

• Inscisional hernia: Abdominal surgery can create weak areas in which a hernia can form. Hernias develop after between two and ten percent of all abdominal surgeries. Some abdominal surgery patients are more at risk than others, so be sure to consult with the surgeon after your procedure to learn your risk.

• Spigelian hernia: This hernia happens along the rectus abdominal muscle and occurs several inches in the side of the middle of the abdomen. The Spigelian hernia occurs only rarely.

• Obsturator hernia: This very rare kind of hernia happens mostly in women. The hernia protrudes from the pelvic cavity though an opening in the pelvic bone. Obsturator hernias will not show a bulge, instead it will act like a bowel obstruction and cause nausea or vomiting. Since there is no visible bulge, these hernias can be difficult to diagnose.

• Epigastric hernia: These will occur between the naval and lower part of the rib cage. They are usually made of fatty tissue and rarely contain any intestinal matter. The epigastric hernia is formed in an area of relative weakness of the abdominal wall and is often painless.

If you believe you have a hernia, it is important to visit a doctor or hernia surgeon immediately. Not only will they be able to relieve any pain, they will also be able to fix the problem before it becomes more dangerous.

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