The Hidden World of Hernias

As you age, your groin and abdominal muscles weaken. That natural wear and tear plus pressure from an organ or tissue on a weak area of muscle can lead to a hernia.

Most common in men older than age 40, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), hernias are portions of organs, such as the intestines, or tissue that bulge through weak spots in surrounding muscle. Hernias occur most frequently in the groin, where they’re known as inguinal hernias, but they can also form at the sites of scars (incisional hernias), in the upper thigh (femoral), near the top of the stomach (hiatal) and around the belly button (umbilical).

Hernias don’t always have symptoms, but they often cause a bump beneath the skin that’s visible during certain activities, such as standing or straining. Over time, a hernia may become painful. An inguinal hernia, for example, may cause pain if you sit or stand for too long.

The Surgical Solution

If you have a hernia, surgery is the only way to fix it, but you may not need an operation right away. For a small hernia, your physician may be able to gently press the portion of organ or tissue back into the proper position and monitor it for changes. If that’s not an option, you’ll need laparoscopic or open surgery to close the hernia with stitches or surgical mesh. Hernia surgery is one of the most common operations in the United States, the NIH reports.

Easy Does It

It’s not always possible to prevent a hernia, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk:

  • Avoid smoking.
  • Include plenty of fiber in your diet and drink lots of water to prevent constipation and straining during bowel movements.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Use proper technique when lifting heavy objects: Squat, instead of bending forward, and use your legs to generate power.


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