Types of Hernia – How Are They Recognized?


A hernia is a protrusion of tissue through a wall of muscle. Most hernias occur in the abdominal region. They are observed as a small lump that might disappear when the patient lies down or when the lump is pressed. Some hernias are painful, especially when the patient bends, coughs, or lifts weights.

There are six main types of hernias – inguinal, femoral, umbilical, incisional, epigastric, and hiatal.

The doctor will identify these hernia based on the location as well as by administering a few tests.

Inguinal Hernia

This is seen as a bulge in the groin area or scrotum. It can occur suddenly when the patent coughed, strained, or lifted weights or develop over a period of months. This hernia occurs because a gap in the muscles around the area was not closed as they should have after birth. The only way to correct this condition is surgery to close the gap and hold the inner tissues in place.

Femoral Hernia

When the tissue from the lower abdomen bulges out into the upper thigh, below the groin area, it is referred to as a femoral hernia. This hernia occurs more frequently in women than in men. Diagnosis of this hernia can be difficult as it can be mistaken for an inguinal hernia. It occurs when part of the intestine is pushed out and trapped, leading to a strangulated hernia. In such cases, it can stop blood flow to the affected tissue and requires emergency surgery to correct the situation.

Umbilical Hernia

When fat, part of the intestine, or fluid pushes out through muscles close to the navel, it is called umbilical hernia. The navel or belly button itself appears to be pushed out. Umbilical hernia most often occurs in babies and situation corrects itself by the time the infant is a year old as the muscles develop in the area.

Adults too can develop umbilical hernia. In such cases, the hernia needs to be treated by surgery as the fat and fluids or the trapped section of the intestine can become a strangulated hernia and cut off blood supply to some parts of the intestine. If that happens, emergency surgery might be required. Any swelling or discoloration of an umbilical hernia requires immediate medical attention.

Incisional Hernia

When a person has had a surgery in the abdominal area, especially by a vertical incision, the underlying tissue might protrude from close to the incision. This is more likely in older people, those who are overweight, and those who have had more than one incision performed in the same area. Incisional hernia can be triggered even years after the surgery. Those who had an infection at the wound site, used steroidal medication, or have suffered from lung problems after the surgery are at greater risk of developing this hernia.

Epigastric Hernia

This hernia is described as tissue pushing through the weak abdominal walls between the breastbone and the navel or belly button. It typically occurs in overweight people and a person can have multiple small epigastric hernias. Physicians will check for epigastric hernias if there is frequent pain in the upper abdominal region. The problem is often treated by surgery.

Hiatal Hernia

This hernia differs from the others as it involves the pushing of the stomach tissues instead of the intestinal tissues. The stomach is separated from the chest by muscles called the diaphragm. If these muscles weaken, the stomach tissue pushed into the chest cavity. This can cause heartburn. However, heartburn can also be caused by GERD, or both conditions can occur simultaneously. Doctors will conduct tests on patients reporting heartburn to determine if there is a hiatal hernia that needs to be treated.

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