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How Do I Know If I Have A Hernia?

Are you experiencing pain when coughing, straining or lifting, or do you have a noticeable protrusion in your groin, abdomen or near a scar? You may have a hernia.

A hernia occurs when an organ, intestine or fatty tissue protrudes through something it shouldn’t, such as muscle or tissue. While symptoms can vary from patient to patient, hernias can cause damage to internal organs if left untreated. So, how do you know for sure if you have one?

James Wiseman, MD, a general surgeon with Banner - University Medical Center Tucson, explained the most common types of hernias, their causes and how to best treat them.

Most Common Types of Hernias

  • Inguinal and Femoral (groin hernias)
  • Umbilical (near the navel/belly button)
  • Ventral (abdomen/ventral wall)

“While there are many different types of hernias, the most common we see are groin hernias.” Dr. Wiseman said.

Possible Causes

In most cases, hernias can occur for any reason and to anyone, although men are more susceptible to groin hernias than women. “However, most of these have been present from birth or are associated with aging or repetitive strain on the abdomen or groin area,” Dr. Wiseman said.

Some general activities that can increase your risk of getting a hernia include:

  • Smoking
  • Any straining due to constipation
  • Persistent cough
  • Lifting heavy weights
  • Being overweight or obese

Symptoms

“Usually they are obvious,” Dr. Wiseman said. In many cases, hernias present as painless swelling in an area. Most often people notice the swelling and see their doctor. Even if it isn’t causing you pain, Dr. Wiseman recommends you still schedule an appointment with your doctor because of the possible risk of organ strangulation.

“It used to be that, unless hernias were symptomatic or causing the patient pain, we didn’t do anything,” Dr. Wiseman said. “New guidance suggests that we fix on diagnosis before it becomes symptomatic. Hernias don’t go away and can continue to grow and become more painful. In fact, in the age group 75 or older, the odds of developing pain associated with the hernia exceeds 75%.”

If you are experiencing pain, nausea or vomiting, seek immediate medical attention.

Treatment Options

When it comes to hernia repairs, there are three surgical approaches: traditional, laparoscopic or robotic.

Traditional surgery: The surgeon makes an incision near the hernia, and the weak muscle is repaired. It can be done with or without surgical mesh.

Laparoscopic surgery: The surgeon makes several small incisions in the abdomen that allows surgical tools into the openings to repair the hernia. This can be done with or without mesh.

Robotic surgery: It is a newer technique for repairing hernias, a surgical technique Dr. Wiseman has perfected and uses quite often for this type of procedure. It uses small cameras just as in laparoscopic surgery, but the surgeon is seated at a console in the operating room and guides the surgical tools from the console.

“Each type of surgery has its advantages and disadvantages,” Dr. Wiseman said. “The best approach should be decided between the patient and surgeon taking into account the age and health of the patient and preferences for using mesh or not.”

Do you think you may have a hernia? Don’t wait. Schedule an appointment with one of our specialized Banner Health experts at bannerhealth.com to be evaluated.

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