Hidden Hernias

March 31, 2018

It is often thought that only men suffer from hernias, but, in fact, hernias are also common in both women and children.

A hernia is defined as “a condition in which a part of an organ protrudes through the wall of the cavity containing it.” Often, patients feel a bulge or lump at the place of the protrusion. Additional symptoms include pain in the groin or upper thigh, and pain that goes away with rest, but recurs and worsens throughout the day.

While symptoms of hernias are the same in men and women, the bulge created by the hernia can be harder to feel when a woman lays down. Because of this, women will often suffer from hernias for a long time before getting treatment.

Hernia repair and treatment

But it is important to get treatment right away. “Hernias should be repaired when identified,” says Brian Ondulick, DO, “because they are always a risk for strangulation of the bowel, which could lead to much larger operations. We fix them so that they don’t create more problems.”

As in most operative procedures, Dr. Ondulick explains, patients should not use tobacco, their weight should be well-controlled, and they should have no comorbid conditions, specifically diabetes, prior to undergoing hernia repair.

Hernias in children   

Hernias at the groin or belly button are common in children under the age of four, but, typically, no medical intervention is necessary unless the child is having trouble walking or moving. Because children are still growing, it’s better to perform longer-term repairs after growth spurts are over.

If you think your child may have a hernia, “changing gait is a telltale sign,” Christopher Schneider, MD, says. “Kids don’t like to stop activity or slow down, so they will try to find ways around it and walk hunched over to take the pressure off the groin or belly button.”

If you think you may have a hernia

Addressing a hernia starts with contacting your primary care physician. “Describe what the pain is and the way that it came on,” Dr. Schneider says. “Was it from activity, heavy lifting, heavy cough? Typically, the pain comes on from things that cause an abdominal pressure increase.”

Bottom line, Dr. Ondulick says, “Not every lump is a hernia, but not every hernia presents as a lump. Always contact your doctor if you notice changes in your physical appearance or if you are experiencing pain.”

Kettering Health Network specializes in state-of-the-art treatments of simple and complex hernias.