A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Ask the expert: Hernia treatment

Dad lifting boy up in the air

I think I have a hernia. What do I need to do?

Most people discover their own hernias by noticing a bulge.

A hernia occurs when part of an internal organ or body part protrudes through an opening into another area where it ordinarily should not be located.

The most common is known as an inguinal hernia. A portion of the intestine protrudes through a weakness in the inguinal canal area, a natural passageway through the abdominal wall in the groin. This causes an abnormal bulge under the skin, near the groin.

Inguinal hernias account for about 75 percent of all hernias and are five times more common in men than women.

Other hernias can occur in the upper thigh just under the groin, the area between the navel and breastbone, under the navel, or through an area where there has been a previous surgery.

A hiatal hernia involves the stomach rather than the intestine, when a portion of the stomach slips upward and passes into the chest. This is often associated with acid reflux, which causes heartburn.

Is a hernia serious?

Most hernias are not serious and will not cause pain. However, they will not go away on their own but will usually stay the same or slowly get larger over time.

Hernias that cause symptoms or that become larger should be surgically repaired.

In many cases, surgeons can repair hernias through laparoscopic surgery, which requires only small incisions.

We say a hernia is “incarcerated” if a portion of intestine becomes trapped in the hernia and is unable to slide back into the abdomen.

Rarely, the trapped intestine can “strangulate,” which means that this portion of the intestine dies because its blood supply is cut off. This causes severe pain and requires immediate medical attention.

Contact your doctor right away if you experience significant pain at the site of a hernia.

* This post submitted by Dr. Joseph Arias.

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