A hernia is a bulge that may appear when tissue pushes through the muscle holding the tissue in place. The most common type of hernia is an abdominal hernia, which means they form in the belly or groin areas.
Hernias can be painful, especially when you cough, lift something heavy or bend over. Do you suspect you have a hernia but are not sure what type you have and if you need to get it treated? If so, this article will help you learn about the different types of hernias and when you should seek treatment.
1. Inguinal hernia
An inguinal hernia is the most common type of hernia. It occurs when a portion of the bowel protrudes out through an opening in the abdominal muscles into the groin. The bulge may contain abdominal tissue, fatty tissue, or a loop of the intestine. There are two types of inguinal hernias:
- Direct inguinal hernia: A direct inguinal hernia may develop when a weak area forms in the lower abdominal area. Lifting, straining or coughing can contribute to a hernia forming. People who are obese, pregnant or constipated are more likely to develop a direct inguinal hernia.
- Indirect inguinal hernia: An indirect inguinal hernia may occur if the inguinal canal fails to close before birth. This type of hernia is more common in males and may appear in a boy’s scrotum. It may occur later in life or at birth. When an indirect hernia occurs in a female, it is generally at the opening of a female’s vagina.
When should you seek care for an inguinal hernia?
Schedule an appointment with an experienced hernia surgeon if you have a painful or visible bulge in your groin or near the pubic bone. Generally, you can feel and see the bulge when you are standing.
If your hernia turns red, purple or dark in color, or if you experience a fever, severe pain, abdominal swelling, vomiting or heavy bleeding, seek care immediately.
2. Femoral hernia
A femoral hernia may occur when tissue in the abdomen pushes through a weak area or tear in the abdominal wall, resulting in a bulge in the upper thigh near the groin. Femoral hernias occur in women more often than men. Chronic constipation, chronic cough, lifting heavy objects, being overweight or straining to urinate may cause this condition.
When should you seek care for a femoral hernia?
If you suspect you have a femoral hernia, the first step is to schedule an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor will evaluate you and develop a treatment plan appropriate for your case. If you have any of the symptoms listed below, you may have a strangulated hernia and need to seek care immediately.
- High fever – 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
- Abdominal swelling
- Difficulty urinating
- Intense pain that will not subside, even with medicine
- Heavy bleeding
- Severe vomiting or nausea
- Shortness of breath
3. Umbilical hernia
An umbilical hernia is a common type of hernia that affects approximately 200,000 people each year. It may develop when a portion of your intestine bulges through the abdominal wall near the belly button. Umbilical hernias are common in infants and are generally harmless. Umbilical hernias often appear when an infant cries and the belly button protrudes. While many umbilical hernias close naturally during an infant’s first two years of life, some will remain open. If an umbilical hernia appears during adulthood, surgery is likely needed to repair the hernia.
When should you seek care for an umbilical hernia?
If your baby appears to be in pain, starts vomiting or has swelling or discoloration at the hernia site, schedule an appointment with your child’s doctor.
4. Incisional hernia
Incisional hernias develop in approximately 15 percent of patients after surgery. The most common sign that you have an incisional hernia is a bulge near your incision site. It is most noticeable when you stand up, cough, lift something heavy or strain your abdominal muscles.
Incisional hernias are more common after emergency surgery or surgeries that require a large incision. The hernia may not heal well if the edges of the incision are not properly aligned.
When to seek care for an incisional hernia?
Incisional hernias do not heal on their own. If you develop an incisional hernia, contact an experienced hernia surgeon. Your hernia surgeon can develop a customized treatment plan for your individual case.
5. Epigastric hernia
Epigastric hernias are bulges in the upper abdominal wall, known as the epigastrium. The epigastrium is located above the belly button, but below the breastbone. While most epigastric hernias are small with only the abdomen lining breaking through the weak muscle tissue, larger epigastric hernias may develop where fatty tissue or stomach tissue pushes through the wall.
Many people do not even realize they have a small epigastric hernia because they do not cause any problems and only appear at certain times.
An epigastric hernia may be present at birth or develop from pregnancy, chronic coughing, heavy lifting, intensive training or physical labor.
When to seek care for an epigastric hernia?
An epigastric hernia will not heal on its own. Eventually, complications that develop may require you to have surgery to repair the hernia. Surgery is the only recommended treatment to repair an epigastric hernia, even in infants.
Seek immediate emergency treatment if you develop severe abdominal pain accompanied by fever, difficulty urinating or nausea. These symptoms may indicate a bowel blockage.
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