Hernias 101: What They Are, How They Happen & How to Prevent Them

Published: Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with a hernia and are not sure what caused it?

The hernia specialists at the Hernia Center of Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) about what causes hernias, what factors put you at higher risk of developing one, how to prevent them, and next steps for hernia repair. 

What is a hernia?

A hernia is a hole or defect in the abdominal wall allowing things normally on the inside to escape to the outside of the wall. Hernias are a common condition caused by strain combined with muscle weakness in the abdomen or groin. In some patients, hernias develop over a long period where, in others, they develop quickly. Some patients experience pain or discomfort associated with hernias, while others are asymptomatic.

If left untreated, hernias can cause serious complications. Spending a few minutes educating yourself on the causes and risk factors can help you prevent a hernia or, if needed, take the necessary steps to have the hernia treated. Treatment, which will almost always require hernia surgery, is common and can help you get back to your normal life quicker and with less pain.

Causes of Hernias

Common causes of hernias include:

  • Muscle weakness after surgery
  • Straining to urinate or have a bowel movement
  • Chronic coughing from conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder
  • Injury from lifting heavy objects or weights
  • Strenuous exercise
  • Being pregnant multiple times
  • Congenital defect that occurs in the womb and presents at birth
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Poor nutrition

Risk Factors

While risk factors vary based on the type of hernia you have, the most common risk factors for developing a hernia include:

  • Older age
  • Family history of hernias
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • Born prematurely with a low birth weight
  • Chronic constipation
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Chronic cough

Tips to Help Prevent a Hernia

If you think you are at risk of having a hernia, there are a variety of things you can to do help prevent them:

  • Eat a nutritious diet
  • Stop smoking
  • Lose weight (if you are overweight or obese)
  • Seek treatment for a persistent cough
  • Avoid straining when using the bathroom

Talk to your doctor about other specific things you can do to prevent yourself from developing a hernia.

How to Prevent a Hernia from Coming Back

Fortunately, hernia repair surgery is common and usually successful but it’s important to choose a surgeon who specializes in hernia repairs to help avoid recurrence and other complications. Additionally, the same tips to prevent a hernia are also important for preventing recurrence.

Next Steps

If you think you have a hernia, schedule an appointment with one of our hernia surgeons at the Hernia Center of NGMC. Choosing the right hernia doctor can help you avoid hernia recurrence and other complications. The Hernia Center is Georgia’s first accredited Hernia Surgery Center of Excellence and offers you access to the most advanced robotic and minimally invasive surgical techniques for hernia repair. Our experienced surgeons perform 50 – 80 hernia surgeries a month and more than 1,500 robotic hernia repairs using the da Vinci surgical system. Learn more about the Hernia Center of Northeast Georgia Medical Center or call 770-219-4040 to speak to our care team about questions or to schedule an appointment.