Whether it’s just occurred and you’re in serious discomfort or you’ve been living with it for years with no symptoms, you should never let a hernia go untreated. But knowing where to turn for hernia treatment can often be just as frustrating as the lump in your side.
In this blog, Dr. Nirav Naik and our team at New Life Medical help you understand both what causes hernias and the steps required to repair them. We also address preventing them in the future.
A closer look at hernias
Your muscles do a lot more than help you move from one place to another. They can also keep you upright and, with the help of other tissues, act as walls that hold your organs in place. But like any wall, the walls of tissue and muscle in your body can fail and leave your organs vulnerable to painful conditions like hernias.
A hernia occurs when your organs push through an opening in the wall of muscles that are supposed to hold them in place. Hernias typically occur in your abdomen and in your upper thigh and groin areas. In fact, we categorize your hernia based on its location.
Inguinal hernias occur in your groin, umbilical hernias appear near your belly button, and hiatal hernias develop in your diaphragm and upper abdomen. You can also develop a hernia near an old surgical site where your muscles have been weakened by the procedure — these are called incisional hernias.
About 21% of the adult population experience a hernia of some type, and men tend to suffer from them more than women.
The most common and obvious sign of a hernia is a large bulge or lump in the affected area. You can often feel a hernia through touch or if you stand up, bend over, or cough, and it may disappear when you lie down. The area around your hernia can also be painful.
Different types of hernias often present with different symptoms. For example, a hiatal hernia may result in new or worsening heartburn, difficulty swallowing, and chest pain.
But in many cases, hernias don’t cause any symptoms, which is why we strongly encourage you to have annual physicals. This is especially important if you identify with any of the common risk factors for hernias, including:
- Being overweight or obese
- Chronic coughing
- Strenuous exercising, such lifting heavy weights
- Chronic constipation
- Damage from a previous injury or surgery
Pregnant women are also at an increased risk for hernias, so make sure you continue to have conversations with your doctor about your physical health during pregnancy.
Treating your hernia
Hernias aren’t life-threatening, but they don’t go away on their own, and they usually require surgical intervention. Dr. Naik has years of experience performing minimally invasive laparoscopic surgical procedures to carefully repair weak, damaged muscles and tissues and prevent your organs from pushing through.
You’re completely sedated for hernia surgery, so you don’t feel any pain during the procedure. Dr. Naik begins by making small incisions around the affected area. Then he inserts a laparoscope — a thin tube with a camera on the end that allows him to see inside your body and perform the hernia repair without making any large or unnecessary incisions.
Because the surgery is so minimally invasive, you may get to go home shortly after your surgery. In fact, we encourage you to get up and walk around as soon as the sedation wears off. Once you’re ready to go home, we give you personalized post-op instructions, including advice on when you can get back to your normal routine.
We don’t just want to repair your hernia. We want to guide you toward healthy lifestyle changes that help you avoid hernias in the future. Some of the best things you can to avoid hernias are:
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Do low-pressure exercise
- Avoid constipation by eating fiber-rich foods
- Avoid heavy lifting
- Stop smoking
- Address persistent coughing quickly
These simple adjustments can go a long way in helping your muscles and tissues hold in your organs so you can avoid hernias.
If you think you have a hernia or if you simply want more information, contact our office in Bakersfield, California, today.