5 Common Types of Hernia: Hernia Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Dr. Sneha Ganatra
July 21, 2020

You develop a hernia when a part of an organ or fatty tissue in your body protrudes through the cavity containing it. The weak points through which the contents of the cavity herniate are called fascia. Depending on where the hernia occurs, for instance, in the groin or abdominal wall, the hernia is given a different name. Among the most common types of hernia are inguinal, femoral, incisional, hiatal, and umbilical or belly button hernia.

However, not everyone is prone to hernia in the same way. For instance, femoral hernia, in which part of your bowel or tissue pushes through into the femoral canal, at the upper thigh, is a common hernia in women. Likewise, inguinal hernia, found in the groin area, in which part of your intestine or bladder protrudes into the inguinal canal is a common hernia in men.
Hernias occur due to a range of causes, from family history and smoking to pregnancy, age and premature birth. When it occurs due to physical activity, it is sometimes called a sports hernia. Irrespective of the cause, when a hernia occurs it doesn’t disappear without care. Sometimes surgery is a must. To know more about the types of hernia, their causes, symptoms, and treatment, read on.

Hernia symptoms

Inguinal hernia

Also called a groin hernia, an inguinal hernia occurs when soft tissue, often that of the intestine, protrudes through a weak point in the abdominal wall. The tissue often pushes through into the inguinal canal in the groin and over 10 million cases of inguinal hernia arise in India every year. This is one of the more common hernia in men.
Causes

Inguinal hernia may be caused due to:

  • Increased abdominal pressure 
  • Prior groin hernia
  • Weakening of the abdominal wall
  • Aging
  • Pregnancy
  • Chronic coughing/ sneezing
  • Obesity
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Exertion

Symptoms 

Common symptoms of inguinal hernia include:

  • Bulging at the groin or pubic area, which may seem to increase in size when you cough or stand up
  • Burning sensation at the bulge
  • Pain when bending over, exercising, lifting heavy objects or coughing
  • Heavy sensation at the groin area
  • Restricted bowel movements
  • Pain in the pelvis, groin or testicle
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the groin or scrotal swelling

Treatment

Treatment is not always necessary and at times a supportive device may be used to push the protruding tissue back. If the pain intensifies or the hernia grows, surgery can repair the weakened abdominal wall. You can undergo open or laparoscopic inguinal herniorrhaphy. 

Hiatal hernia

A hiatal hernia is caused when your stomach’s top part juts into your chest cavity through the diaphragm. The opening through which the hernia occurs is called the oesophageal hiatus. More than 1 million cases of hiatal hernia occur in India every year. Hiatal hernias are of two types, sliding and fixed. Sliding hernias are more common.

Causes

A hiatal hernia may be caused due to:

  • Injury
  • Damage to the diaphragm
  • Excessive vomiting/ coughing
  • Lifting of heavy objects
  • Large oesophageal hiatus
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Aging
  • Straining bowel movements

Symptoms

Common symptoms of hiatal hernia include:

  • Heartburn, which intensifies when you lie down or bend over
  • Belching
  • Bloating
  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Regurgitation
  • Throat irritation
  • Swallowing problems

Treatment

In cases of acid reflux or heartburn, medications like antacids and proton-pump inhibitors can work. Weight loss initiatives, lifestyle changes and a new diet can also help. In case further treatment is required you may need to undergo a hernia repair, Nissen fundoplication or laparoscopic surgery.

Umbilical hernia

Also called belly button hernia, umbilical hernia occurs when intestinal or other tissues within the abdominal cavity protrude through a weak point in the abdominal wall muscles at the belly button. Many infants, up to 20%, are born with belly button hernia; however, this can occur anytime in life. Most umbilical hernias close on their own, by the age of 4 to 5 and do not cause pain. There are over 1 million cases of umbilical hernia in India each year.

Causes

Umbilical hernia arises due to the failure of the abdominal wall muscle, which allows the umbilical cord to pass through, to join back or close completely. The hernia may arise due to:

  • Excessive abdominal pressure
  • Being overweight
  • Multiple gestation
  • Frequent pregnancies
  • Previous abdominal surgery

Symptoms

Common symptoms of umbilical hernia include:

  • Protruding belly button, especially when the baby laughs, coughs or strains
  • Sudden vomiting
  • Pain
  • Discoloured bulge

Treatment

Most umbilical hernias close by the time the child is 5 years old. However, if it does not heal by itself or with supportive care and becomes stuck, doctors may suggest surgery by the age 4.

Femoral hernia

When a part of your intra-abdominal tissue protrudes through a fragile spot in the abdominal wall into the femoral canal, a femoral hernia occurs. The femoral canal lies below the inguinal ligament and hence, a femoral hernia would be seen below an inguinal hernia. This is a more common hernia in women, rather than in men. However, a majority of groin-related hernias are inguinal and not femoral.

Causes

A femoral hernia may be caused due to:

  • Being born with weakened muscle walls
  • Childbirth
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Obesity
  • Chronic constipation
  • Chronic coughing
  • Excessive abdominal fluid build-up
  • Difficult urination

Symptoms

Common symptoms of femoral hernia include:

  • Bulge on the upper thigh or groin, which may be painful
  • Bulge worsens when standing, straining, or lifting objects
  • Hip pain
  • Stomach pain
  • Groin pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Treatment

No treatment may be required for small hernias, and supportive care may suffice. However, in case of a great level of discomfort, your doctor may suggest hernia repair surgery. The surgeries are of 2 types: open and laparoscopic.

Ventral hernia

A ventral hernia occurs when intestinal or abdominal tissue pushes through a weak spot in the abdominal wall. These occur along the midline of the abdominal wall. Belly button hernia is, in fact, one type of ventral hernia. Epigastric hernia, which occurs in the region between the navel and breastbone, is another. Incisional hernia which form where previous surgical incisions have been made are a third. Occurring in the lower abdomen, the spigelian hernia is also called a lateral ventral hernia.

Causes

Ventral hernia may arise due to:

  • Previous abdominal surgery
  • Congenital defect
  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Strained bowel movement
  • Aging
  • Family history
  • Injuries to bowel area

Symptoms

Common symptoms of ventral hernia include:

  • Intense pain along the hernia area
  • Bulging in the abdomen, which may be tender to touch
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pain when standing or lifting heavy objects

Treatment

Treatment for ventral hernia includes surgery. This eliminates the risk of the hernia enlarging and causing serious medical complications. Surgery for ventral hernia can be open surgery, laparoscopic surgery, mesh placement surgery or even robotic hernia repair.

Now that you are aware of the various types of hernia, it is important to note that, often, hernia causes no particular symptoms to arise. Similarly, in terms of treatment, sometimes surgery is required and at other times lifestyle modifications may suffice. Nonetheless diagnosing and, especially, treating a hernia is a process, during which it is best to consult periodically with a medical professional. You can do so easily today using the HealthRx app, which allows you to set up e-consultations with the best doctors in your locality and helps you store your Personal Health Records (PHR) digitally. You can also track your symptoms using this app and even avail complete healthcare packages to address all your medical concerns with ease.

So, take care to avoid actions and a lifestyle that may cause a hernia and download the HealthRx app to manage your healthcare smartly!

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