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A young woman snacks on a plate of assorted fruits to help improve her digestive health.

What is a hernia?

A hernia occurs when an organ or tissue pushes through an opening in the muscle or tissue that normally holds it in place. It can happen anywhere in the body but most often occurs in the abdominal or groin areas.

What are the symptoms of hernias?

The most common symptom of a hernia is a bulge or lump in the affected area, which may or may not be painful. Other symptoms can include:

  • Discomfort or pain when lifting heavy objects
  • Bending over
  • Coughing
  • A feeling of pressure or heaviness in the affected area.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with a primary care provider today.

When should you worry about hernia pain?

You should worry about hernia pain if it is severe, sudden, or accompanied by nausea, vomiting, fever, or difficulty passing stool or gas. These symptoms may indicate that the hernia has become trapped or incarcerated. Additionally, if you have a hernia and experience any changes in size or shape of the bulge, or if the hernia becomes more painful or swollen, it is important to see a digestive health specialist to rule out any complications.

What are the risk factors of hernias?

The risk factors for hernias include:

  1. Age: As we age, our muscles weaken, making us more susceptible to hernias.
  2. Gender: Some types of hernias are more common in men or women.
  3. Family history
  4. Obesity
  5. Pregnancy

What are the different types of hernias?

  • Inguinal hernias occur when part of the intestine or fatty tissue protrudes through the inguinal canal in the groin area. It is more common in men than in women.
  • Femoral hernias occur when part of the intestine or fatty tissue protrudes through the femoral canal in the upper thigh. It is more common in women than in men.
  • Umbilical hernias occur when part of the intestine or fatty tissue protrudes through the abdominal muscles around the belly button. It is more common in newborns but can also occur in adults.
  • Incisional hernias occur when part of the intestine or fatty tissue protrudes through a surgical incision in the abdominal muscles. It is more common in people who have had abdominal surgery.
  • Hiatal hernias occur when part of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm and into the chest cavity. It can cause symptoms such as heartburn and difficulty swallowing.

How is a hernia diagnosed?

A physician will usually diagnose hernias with a physical examination, but imaging tests such as ultrasound or CT scan may be needed to confirm the diagnosis and determine the extent of the hernia.

How do you treat a hernia?

The treatment for hernias depends on the type and severity of the hernia. In some cases, watchful waiting may be recommended, especially for small hernias that are not causing symptoms. However, in most cases, surgery is needed to repair the hernia. Surgery may be done as an open procedure or laparoscopically, depending on the type of hernia and the surgeon's preference. Recovery time varies depending on the type of surgery, but most people are able to return to normal activities within a few weeks.

Our experienced, board-certified gastroenterologists serve patients throughout the Greater Houston area. No matter where you live or which location you choose, you can trust that we will provide the same patient-centered standards of quality care to everyone.

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