We Know: All About Hernias

What is a hernia?

A hernia is a bulge of tissue or organ through the muscle wall that contains it. This protrusion is sometimes called a rupture and can occur in the abdomen, bowels and any other area that is contained by muscular tissue.

What is a Hiatal hernia?

Hiatal hernia is another word for "diaphragmatic" hernia. This occurs when the upper part of the stomach is above the diaphragm, which is the muscle wall that separates the chest from the stomach. When a hiatal hernia exists, acid may come up the esophagus because the diaphragm cannot help keep the acid down. Because of this, a hiatal hernia may cause heartburn or acid reflux. More information about hiatal hernias can be found in this article.

What causes a hernia?

Abdominal pressure caused by heavy lifting, straining during a bowel movement, obesity, violent coughing, an old incision or any other activity placing strain on the abdomen can cause a hernia.

What are the symptoms of a hernia?

People who have a hernia will most commonly notice a lump in the abdominal wall that is either painful to touch or push, or elicits a constant ache. Hernia sufferers may also have a fever, nausea and vomiting. These symptoms are a sign that immediate medical attention should be sought.

How is a hernia treated?

Typically, surgery is the only treatment for a hernia. A small incision is made so the portion of the intestine causing the bulge can be pushed back into place. The muscle is then repaired with stitches and reinforced with a mesh material. Recovery time is a few weeks, and a corset-type brace is usually worn to alleviate strain on the abdomen.

What are some at-home treatments for a hernia?

While at-home care should never substitute for professional medical care, if you can't see the doctor right away, there are some things you can do to treat your hernia in the mean time. First, avoid all strenuous activities. Avoid coughing hard as much as possible and absolutely do not lift heavy objects. For added support as you wait to visit the doctor, a support belt or corset may be your best option. This prevents the hernia from getting worse, and can actually ease some of the pain caused by the hernia.

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