Hernias are a relatively common condition that many of us will experience in our lifetimes. However, it is surprising how little most of us understand about what hernias are, how they occur, and how many different varieties there are. We turned to leading surgeon Mr Tim Worthington, who answered the most common questions about hernias.
What is a hernia?
A hernia is a weakness, usually in the muscular wall of a cavity (either the chest or abdomen) which allows for some of the contents of the cavity to pass through it.
How do you know if you have a hernia?
The symptoms of a hernia are a lump, which may be intermittent, and pain. Occasionally, hernias can cause obstruction of their contents, such as in the case of bowel hernias. Hiatus hernias (the stomach herniating near the oesophagus) can cause symptoms such as heartburn and acid reflux.
What different types of hernia are there?
There are many different types of hernia. The most common are in the groin, either being inguinal or femoral hernias.
Inguinal hernias occur when part of the tissue inside the abdomen, such as the intestine, pushes through a weak spot in the lower abdominal wall. They are seen more frequently in men and may appear as a lump in the groin or scrotum.
Femoral hernias are similar but less common, with fatty tissue or part of the bowel herniating through the groin near the top of the thigh. They are more common in women.
What are the commonest types of hernia and how are they repaired?
The commonest types are groin hernias and the commonest type of groin hernia is an inguinal hernia. Generally speaking, we tend to recommend surgical repair for inguinal hernias, because they can lead to complications. Increasingly, we perform this surgery with minimally invasive or laparoscopic surgery, whereby patients can be treated either as a day case or an overnight stay.
Do hernias go away on their own?
It is unusual for hernias to resolve spontaneously and often an operation is required.
How do you treat a hernia?
Often the best treatment for a hernia is an operative repair, but occasionally, if patients are frail or infirm, a truss or support can be used.
If you are experiencing symptoms of a hernia, pay a visit to your doctor or a specialist.