You’ve been diagnosed with a hernia. Now what? Is an operation inevitable? At Turnquest Surgical Solutions, our board-certified surgeons, Dexter Turnquest, MD, and Victoria C. Chang, MD, are the experts you want to consult if you have a hernia.
What is a hernia?
If you’re diagnosed with a hernia, it means that a bodily organ or body tissue has intruded through a muscle and ends up where it’s not supposed to be. The organ or tissue has breached the muscle wall.
Two common types of hernias
Two common types of hernias are inguinal, which means it’s in the groin area, and hiatal, which is in the area of your diaphragm.
If you’re a man with an inguinal hernia, your intestine or bladder has pushed through the muscles in your abdomen and has moved into an area called the inguinal canal in your groin. The inguinal canal is the path that contains blood vessels that go to your testicles.
Almost all hernias in the groin area are found in men.
You’ve likely felt a bulge in your groin or scrotum along with pain at the site when lifting a heavy object or otherwise exerting yourself. You might also have experienced constipation or feel nauseated.
Inguinal hernias are often a result of wear and tear on the abdominal and groin muscles from physical work. Prolonged diarrhea or constipation can weaken those muscles and place you at higher risk for a hernia as well.
Sometimes the problem stems from congenital weakness in those muscles. If you smoke or if you’re obese and don’t exercise, you may be at increased risk of a hernia from weakened muscles.
Hernias don’t get better on their own. We may recommend surgery if you’re experiencing pain and other uncomfortable symptoms. To repair an inguinal hernia, we do laparoscopic surgery using tiny incisions. Mesh netting material strengthens the weak area where the hernia occurred.
A hiatal hernia occurs in the upper stomach. A part of the stomach pushes through an opening in the diaphragm. Your diaphragm is the muscle under your lungs. It contracts and expands when you breathe in and out.
Scientists aren’t completely sure why hiatal hernias form, but abdominal pressure or simply aging and weakened muscles are likely to blame, as well as lifestyle factors such as obesity.
A large hiatal hernia can cause symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). You can experience heartburn, acid reflux, pain in your chest, swallowing difficulty, and other uncomfortable symptoms.
If you start vomiting blood or passing black stools, seek immediate treatment. Your hernia may be at risk of strangulation, which means the blood supply is cut off causing tissue to die. This is a medical emergency.
If medication or weight loss don’t relieve your symptoms, you’re a candidate for surgery. The method of surgery depends on the severity of your hernia. We discuss what we need to do to restore your health.
It could be simply strengthening the opening where the hernia was able to push through the muscle wall, or we may need to make the opening to your diaphragm smaller. In many cases, we can perform the surgery via laparoscopy, which is less invasive than open surgery and allows you to recover faster.
Call one of our Houston, Texas, locations or request an appointment through our online system for expert hernia care and for all your general and bariatric surgery needs.