Hernias are fairly common and can affect men, women and even children. Often described as a protruding lump, usually on the abdomen, there are several types of hernia which differ. Mr Michael Stellakis, a leading colorectal surgeon, explains how you can identify a hernia and what type it could be.
How would you recognise if you had a hernia?
I am often asked by patients “how would I know if I had a hernia?” and it is quite simple really; a hernia is essentially a lump. Hernias can occur anywhere around the abdomen, but the common places are in the groin, around the belly button and/or underneath a previous surgical scar.
Common symptoms of a hernia:
- The lump is protruding
- It is unsightly
- It can feel uncomfortable
One of the key features is that when you cough or strain, it can temporarily get larger. We call this a cough impulse and it is fairly easy to elicit.
Often hernias, when you are not straining or if you are lying flat and relaxed, will disappear. This is particularly true of groin or inguinal hernias.
If you feel you have a hernia then it is certainly worth having it checked, either at your local general practitioners or through a specialist. They will be able to recommend the best treatment option, which may or may not be surgical.
What are the different types of hernias?
Hernias occur when the intra-abdominal contents move through a defect, in or around the abdomen to create a lump.
There are various types of hernias, some of which are more common than others. The more common types of hernia are:
- Inguinal and femoral hernias (found in the groin region)
- Para-umbilical hernias (found around the belly button)
- Incisional hernias (found on old surgical scars)
What causes a hernia?
A hernia happens when intra-abdominal contents (bowel, fat or an organ) protrude through a defect in the abdominal wall. Sometimes these defects can be congenital, inherent or a design defect, and other times, those defects can be acquired. For example, through an old surgical incision site.
Some of the more common, such as inguinal or groin hernias, because there are inherent congenital weaknesses within the groin, particularly in men. These weaknesses are actually leftover from the descent of the testicle which has to journey from inside the abdomen to essentially outside of the body by the time you are one year old and they leave little holes in the groin through which hernias can develop.