Hernias are actually fairly common, but many people are not aware how to identify when they have a hernia, and therefore don’t know if they might have a severe enough hernia to require surgery. Here’s a quick overview to help you determine if the problem you are experiencing might be enough to visit the doctor and find out more about hernia surgery options.
Every organ and tissue inside your body has a place that it belongs, but every so often you might get an injury or have something happen that causes these organs and tissues to protrude through an opening where they don’t belong. The most common types of hernias occur in the abdominal and groin areas, usually creating a visible bulge and causing pain. They can be congenital (a problem that exists from the time you are born), or something that develops later.
When Hernias Require Surgery
Most hernias will eventually require surgery, as it’s not something that will go away on its own. Depending on the type of hernia you have and the severity, you may need immediate surgery, or it might be something you can discuss with your doctor and schedule for later.
There are two types of hernias, and whether or not you need surgery right away depends on which type you have:
- Reducible hernias can easily be “pushed” back in
- Non-reducible hernias are those where a portion of the intestine becomes trapped in the herniated area, reducing blood flow, and potentially becoming life-threatening if not immediately treated
The only way to know which type of hernia you have is to be evaluated by a physician, so if you think you might have a hernia, don’t wait to visit your doctor.
When You Can Wait
Not all hernias are immediately life threatening, and therefore not all hernias will require surgery right away. In some cases you may have a mild hernia that causes little or no pain, and doesn’t change much over several weeks or months. If your hernia is not dangerous (it’s reducible) and it’s not causing you much pain or discomfort, your doctor may advise that you can wait a while. It’s important to note that a person should never self-diagnose whether or not s/he needs surgery for a hernia; this is something that you should discuss with a physician.
Most people won’t be able to completely prevent against hernias, but there are some things you can do to minimize them, especially if you know that you are at higher risk with factors such as
- Obesity (hernias are more common if you have excess body fat)
- Age (hernias are more common for older individuals)
- Frequent or recurring muscle injury
- Surgical incisions
- Lifting and straining in the abdominal muscles
If you are suffering from a mild hernia, talk to your doctor about ways you can limit pain, such as limiting physical activity and heavy lifting, or losing some of your body weight to reduce pressure. A temporary truss or binder might be an option for some patients as well, although these are all only temporary solutions—for permanent relief and recovery, you will need to have the hernia surgically repaired.