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Hernias are nothing to laugh at

Older man lifting grandchild to pick applesHernias are serious and do not fix themselves. If not treated, a hernia can get larger and lead to serious health complications— surgery is the only way to permanently fix the problem.

A hernia occurs when an organ or tissue pushes through a weak spot in a surrounding muscle or connective tissue. The most common types of hernias are inguinal, incisional, femoral, umbilical, and hiatal.

Sometimes the hernia is present at birth, but more often they can occur later in life. Anything that causes an increase in pressure in the abdomen can cause a hernia, including:

  • Lifting heavy objects without stabilizing the stomach muscles
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Persistent coughing or sneezing
  • Obesity, poor nutrition, and smoking can weaken the muscles and make hernias more likely

Signs and symptoms

In most cases, your medical provider can diagnose a hernia by doing a physical exam. Individuals can experience:

  • Aching sensation or sometimes no symptoms
  • Bulge in the abdominal or groin area
  • Bulge enlarges with increasing intra-abdominal pressure and/or standing
  • Burning or sharp pain in the area
  • Constipation or blood in stool
  • Discomfort when lifting or bending over
  • Feeling of fullness
  • Nausea or vomiting if bowel is obstructed
  • Swelling or fullness at the hernia site

You need to call your medical provider right away if the swelling around your hernia becomes larger, firmer, or more painful. If you have nausea or vomiting this could be a sign of a bowel obstruction. The hernia must be repaired right away to avoid serious problems. 

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