A hernia is a condition in which fatty tissue or an organ protrudes through the surrounding connective tissue, called fascia. Hernias can affect about 5% of the population. They can be found in both genders, but mainly happen in males. Women’s abdominal regions are meant to carry children, so they are much stronger than their male counterparts. In a man’s lifetime, there is more than a 25% chance of getting a hernia.
Hernias can occur without warning and can even be painless. While there are many types of hernias, the most common is the inguinal hernia. The Mayo Clinic defines an inguinal hernia as soft tissue, usually part of the membrane lining the abdominal cavity or part of the intestine, protruding through a weak point in the abdominal muscles. Inguinal hernias make up approximately 75% of all abdominal hernias.
It is important to know the signs and symptoms, along with what you can do to reduce your chances of experiencing one. An early sign to look for is a small lump in your lower abdomen that won’t go away; this can come with or without pain. Sometimes the only pain is during strenuous exercise, like lifting an object or from straining during physical activity. You should always use proper technique when lifting anything heavy. Not only will your abdominal walls thank you, but your back will as well. When lifting, always make sure to keep your back straight, knees bent, and avoid any twisting or jerking. Maintaining a strong core, your abdomen and back, is one of the best things you can do to avoid the likelihood of a hernia. You don’t have to be a bodybuilder to create a hernia-resistant core, either. Exercises that work out the abdomen, like Pilates and Yoga, are an excellent way to strengthen your connective tissues.
Another way to reduce your risk is to avoid smoking. Cancer and emphysema are not the only afflictions caused by smoking. Long-term smoking usually leads to a chronic “smoker’s cough”. This happens because of the increased mucous that smoking creates in the lungs. The strain of constantly coughing weakens the connective tissue, which increases the likelihood of a hernia.
What if you have been diagnosed with a hernia? First of all, it is important to know that it won’t heal by itself. Surgery is an effective treatment to fix an inguinal hernia and repair the torn abdominal wall (fascia). If untreated, the hernia can cut off blood to part of the bowel, which can lead to tissue necrosis.
With the advancement of surgical techniques today, treatment can be performed in an outpatient setting. Shorter and less invasive surgery also leads to a much faster recovery. For more information, you may contact Associates in General & Vascular Surgery, a division of 21st Century Oncology, at (239) 939-2616.
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