A localized bulge in the abdomen or groin caused by a hernia is a common problem that can often be harmless and pain-free, but can at times bring discomfort and pain.
In this article we investigate what a hernia is, the common causes of hernia and the treatments that can be carried out to treat them.
You will also see introductions at the end of some sections to any recent developments that have been covered by MNT's news stories. Also look out for links to information about related conditions. Note that this article is also available in Spanish.
Fast facts on hernia
Here are some key points about hernia. More detail and supporting information is in the body of this article.
- Hernias are abnormal bulges created by a weakness or hole, usually in the abdominal wall.
- The main types of hernia are femoral, inguinal, hiatal, umbilical and incisional.
- Hernias often produce no troublesome symptoms, but some abdominal complaints may signal a serious problem.
- They are usually straightforward to diagnose, simply by feeling and looking for the bulge.
- Treatment is a choice between watchful waiting and corrective surgery, either via an open or keyhole operation.
- Congenital diaphragmatic hernia is an uncommon birth defect involving hernia of a newborn's diaphragm. It can be diagnosed during a pregnancy scan and needs medical attention.
- Inguinal hernia surgery is more common in childhood and old age, while the likelihood of femoral hernia surgery increases throughout life.13
- An overwhelming majority of groin hernia repair is for inguinal hernia (97% in one review), rather than femoral hernia (3%).
- The reoperation rate for inguinal hernia is around 4% in men and 5% in women.
What is a hernia?
Belly button repair: a bulge at this part of the abdomen is an umbilical hernia.
A hernia occurs when there is a weakness or hole in the muscular wall that usually keeps abdominal organs in place. This muscular wall is called the peritoneum.
This defect in the peritoneum allows organs and tissues to push through, or herniate, producing a bulge.1,2
Hernias can commonly be found in the following areas:2
- Groin - a femoral hernia gives a bulge just below the groin (more common in women); an inguinal hernia (more common in men) is a bulge in the groin that may reach the scrotum
- Upper part of the stomach - hiatal or hiatus hernia is the upper part of the stomach pushing up out of the abdominal cavity and into the chest cavity via an opening in the diaphragm
- Belly button - a bulge around here is produced by an umbilical hernia
- Surgical scar - past abdominal surgery can lead to an incisional hernia through the operational scar.
In this video from AFC Doctors Express Urgent Care, Dr. Tom Brown discusses what hernias are, how common they are and how people get them.
On the next page, we look at the common causes of a hernia and the symptoms. On the final page we discuss how hernias are diagnosed and the available treatment options for a hernia.