What is a Hernia?
A hernia occurs when a part of an organ is displaced and protrudes through the structure or muscle that usually contains it. Hernias are most often thought of as a "bulge" in the abdominal wall or groin, but there are many types; some that can be seen, some that cannot.
Hernias You Can See
- Inguinal hernia/Femoral Hernia - (or "groin" hernia) - commonly noted as a bulge near the groin area. This is very common and is often painful. A "lump" may be able to be felt or there may just be pain and the doctor will be able to find this.
- Umbilical Hernia - a hernia at the umbilicus (belly-button). These are common and may be symptomatic (painful, getting bigger) or may have no symptoms at all.
- Ventral or Incisional Hernia - These are bulges along previous incisions. They are from where the abdominal wall was cut and can become weak and cause new hernias.
- Other (common terms: epigastric, spigelian, flank) - these hernias occur at other sites on the abdominal wall (or the side of the abdomen or on the back). They show up as bulges or often just as pain and can be seen on specialized testing (CAT scans, MRI, x-rays).
Hernias You CAN'T See
- Hiatal Hernia - these hernias are inside the abdomen. They do not cause a bulge that can be seen. However, they do occur on the inside of the abdomen and can cause issues with gastric reflux (heartburn), difficulty with swallowing, and even blockages of the intestines. They are often repaired for these reasons.
- Internal Hernia - these hernias occur on the inside of the abdomen as well. They are usually from previous surgery. They can lead to intestinal obstructions and can also lead to bowel death (ischemia). They need to be repaired when found due to this.
- Diaphragm Hernias - These are hernias of the diaphragm (breathing muscle). They can be from birth or can occur after surgery or trauma. Certain ones (para-esophageal hernias) can happen due to untreated Hiatal Hernias as well.
This very unique type of "groin" hernia may or may not be present as a "bulge" in the groin. These hernias are very difficult to detect and treat. They can range from a "true hernia" where there is a bulge to a tearing of the muscles of the groin. Both forms can require surgery.