Inguinal Hernias: Treating and Preventing Them

Most people have heard of inguinal hernias – protruding lumps in the lower belly or scrotum that often result from heavy lifting or other types of stress or strain – but do you really know what causes them and how they’re treated? Or better still, how to potentially prevent them? Here’s what you need to know:iStock_000041557066_Small

First, inguinal refers to the lower abdomen and hernias that occur there – inguinal hernias – are the most common type of hernia, affecting about 5 million people – mostly men – each year. Over a lifetime, about a quarter of men and 2 percent of women will develop an inguinal hernia, which forms when tissue pushes through a weakened area in the abdominal wall.

Hernias appear like a round lump or bump under the skin, and the way they occur and the symptoms they cause can vary significantly between people. For instance, while some hernias can appear suddenly, others may take weeks or months to form; while some hernias cause significant discomfort – most commonly pain or burning sensations – others may not cause symptoms for a long time.

But just because a hernia isn’t causing discomfort, that doesn’t mean you should ignore it or delay treatment. That’s because even asymptomatic hernias can become strangulated, cutting off blood flow to a portion of the bowel and causing severe – even life-threatening – complications.

Treatment of Inguinal Hernias

Hernias are typically treated using one of two approaches:

  • Herniorrhaphy, or open surgical repair, involves an incision into the groin area so the surgeon can push the protruding tissue back into place, suturing the weakened or torn area and, usually, reinforcing the area with a special supportive mesh.
  • Laparoscopy is a minimally invasive technique that uses a few small incisions to repair the hernia. A specially designed surgical tool called a laparoscope is inserted in one incision to provide a view of the herniated area; then tiny surgical instruments are inserted through another incision to perform the repair.

Preventing Inguinal Hernias

The abdominal wall weakness where a hernia forms develops before birth, so there’s nothing you can do to prevent that. But there are other ways you can minimize your risk of developing a hernia:

Laparoscopy results in smaller incisions and faster recovery times, but it’s not an ideal approach for all types of hernias. Your surgeon will be able to determine which approach is better for you.

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Develop plans for healthy eating and exercise that you can actually stick to. When your weight is kept in check, less pressure will be exerted on your abdominal wall, which means a hernia is less likely to develop.
  • Eat lots of fiber. Fiber can help keep your bowels moving so you don’t become constipated and bloated, which can also cause an increase in pressure.
  • Be careful when lifting heavy objects. Always lift using your legs, or better still, avoid lifting heavy objects altogether. The strain of lifting is a common cause of hernias.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking can cause coughing, which can put considerable stress on your abdominal wall.

If you think you may have a hernia, having an evaluation is critical. Call Olde Del Mar Surgi9cal today at 858.457.4917 and schedule your evaluation with Dr. Sunil Bhoyrul or Dr. Gina Farinholt so you can stay as healthy as possible.

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