Each year, hernias affect millions of Americans, but experts believe that only a portion of those suffering seek any kind of medical treatment. National Hernia Awareness Month is observed each June in order to raise public awareness about hernias and effective hernia treatment. Most people do not understand what a hernia is or what causes one, much less the treatment options available.
A hernia occurs when parts of an organ (usually the intestines) protrudes through a weak point or tear in the thin muscular wall that holds the abdominal organs in place. People at risk of developing a hernia are typically those performing chronic lifting or activities that require straining, which increases intra-abdominal pressure. However, the various types and causes of hernias may occur in both males and females of literally any age. In infants and children, hernias occur when the lining around the abdominal organs does not close properly before birth. About 5 out of 100 children have inguinal hernias, although some may not have symptoms until adulthood.
Often there is no obvious cause as to why someone develops a hernia, but awareness of the common symptoms can help in diagnosing their occurrence. Identifying hernias in a timely manner is crucial. Left unchecked, hernias can possibly lead to a strangulated intestine, gangrene, and even death. Common hernia symptoms include:
- Groin discomfort aggravated by bending
- A tender groin lump
- A non-tender bulge or lump in children
People should seek medical help whenever a hernia is suspected and should have further evaluation by a medical professional, especially when pain or discomfort persists. The treatment of a hernia is almost always surgery, although a temporary measure may include simply pushing the hernia content back into the abdomen then applying pressure to the area to prevent it from reoccurring. During surgical hernia repair, the herniated segment can usually be placed back into the abdominal cavity through an incision and the muscle then stitched closed to repair the hernia.
To prevent a hernia from occurring, people should use proper lifting techniques, exercise, and maintain a healthy body weight.