Hernias – what are they, who gets them and what should be done about them?
Hernias (but not hiatus hernias) are noticed as a lump, most commonly in the groin or umbilical region. They are caused by the protrusion of the lining of the inside of the abdominal wall (the peritoneum) through a weakness or rupture of the muscles in the abdominal wall. If they get very large, part of the intestine could pass through the rupture and this is dangerous if the hernia becomes stuck as it will cause an obstruction in the intestines.
Hernias can occur in anyone, regardless of age or gender. However, certain types may occur more frequently in males, females and at different ages.
Inguinal hernias occur in the groin in an area where there is a potential weakness. In men, this is due to the fact that blood vessels and the pipes carrying the sperm from the testis pass through the inguinal canal. It was thought that straining caused hernias, but as they occur in children and young boys, there is probably an underlying weakness making the area liable to rupture.
Femoral hernias occur around the femoral canal which allows the passage of the large blood vessels to the leg. They are more common in women.
Umbilical hernias occur around the tummy button where there is another area of weakness and are common in children of either sex.
Treatment for hernias involves surgery to repair the defect. You can find the recent guidance issued by the National Institute for Excellence
More comprehensive information, together with diagrams can be found by following this link http://www.hernia.org/manjava.html
Remember that not all lumps are hernias. You should see a doctor about any lump that persists, particularly if it increases in size.
This article published on
04 December 2005
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