Several months ago, my father was diagnosed with a hernia. His doctor said it was mild and could be fixed with minor surgery, but immediate treatment was not necessary. Since none of my family members or I had ever heard of the condition, we all began to do some research. As it turns out, hernias are actually much more common than we initially realized.
A hernia happens when an organ pokes through a hole or weak spot in the muscle that is meant to hold it in place, typically due to aging. This occurrence may result in an inexplicable bulge beneath the skin and possible pain or discomfort in the affected region. Hernias can occur in multiple areas of the body and for a variety of reasons. The most common causes of hernias involve activities or events that lead to muscle strain, such as obesity or sudden weight gain, lifting heavy objects, diarrhea or constipation, persistent coughing or sneezing, and pregnancy. There are several types of hernias that mainly occur in the abdominal area, including the inner groin, the outer groin, the belly button, and the upper stomach. Hernias can also result from a previous incision or scar as well as a birth defect leading to weakness of the abdominal muscle or tissue.
Image Source: Ian Waldie
Hernias are actually most prevalent in infants and toddlers, but they can happen at any age and to any gender. Men are most prone to inguinal hernias due to general weakness in the groin area. On the other hand, women are more likely to experience femoral hernias, particularly due to obesity or pregnancy. Hernias in the teen years are typically of the congenital diaphragmatic variety, as adolescent muscle has not undergone the kind of aging that contributes to the development of most other hernias.
Since the main causes of hernias are related to abdominal muscle strain, the obvious precautionary measures would be to maintain a healthy weight and avoid heavy lifting if possible. Weight training is a great component of exercise, but make sure to maintain proper form and avoid exceeding your limits. If a hernia does develop, the primary form of treatment tends to be surgery to repair the tear or opening in the muscle tissue.
Although hernias are mainly uncomfortable, but otherwise harmless, every case is different. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you experience any kind of abnormal swelling or discomfort in the abdominal area.
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