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What is it? A hernia (her-nee-uh) is a weakness or tear in the wall of an organ that causes a part of that organ to squeeze through the muscle wall. For example, an inguinal (in-gwih-null) hernia is in the groin where the abdomen (belly) meets the upper leg. Most hernias are in the abdomen, groin, or near the umbilicus (um-bill-ih-kuss) or belly button.
Causes: You may have had a weak muscle or a hole in a muscle wall since birth. The muscle weakness may come after surgery or from lifting something heavy. Or you may get a hernia when you are pregnant or from just getting older. You may be at a higher risk of having a hernia if you have hard coughing spells, are constipated (hard BMs), or are overweight.
Signs and Symptoms: You may have swelling or a painful lump in your abdomen, umbilicus, or groin. The lump usually goes away when you lie down or gently push on it. You may have pain when you strain, lift, or cough. If you are a man you may have swelling or pain in scrotum. You may have a hard time having a BM. Or you may vomit (throw up) which can be a serious sign. A baby may have bulging in the groin when crying.
Care: Hernias can often be pushed back into place. But surgery is the only long-term treatment to fix a hernia. You may need surgery right away for a strangulated (stran-gu-la-ted) or incarcerated (in-kar-sir-a-ted) hernia. Strangulated hernias are twisted hernias. Surgery is done to untwist the hernia and return the organ to its proper place. An incarcerated hernia is a trapped hernia that cannot be pushed back into place. Surgery is done to return the organ to its proper place.
- There are things you can do to keep from having the hernia return if you do not have surgery. Do not lift heavy things. Try to cough gently. Eat lots of fiber (fruits and vegetables) to keep your BMs soft. You should lose weight if you are overweight. Ask your caregiver if it is OK to exercise.
- You may need to wear a truss. A truss is a pad and belt that is held snugly over a hernia. It prevents the abdominal contents from entering the sac of the hernia. A truss does not cure a hernia. Talk to your caregiver before buying a truss.
You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about hernias. You can then discuss the treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care will be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.