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What is a Hernia?

By Garry Crystal
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A hernia usually occurs when a hole or rupture appears in the wall of the abdomen. The abdominal wall consists of tendons and very tough muscle. It runs from the rib area down to the groin area and stops just before the legs. One of the abdominal wall’s functions is to hold in the intestines. When a rupture occurs, the intestines can begin to push through the abdominal wall.

A hernia can happen to anyone, regardless of age or sex. It is usually felt as a small lump, but if left untreated, can grow to any size. There have been cases in which an untreated hernia has grown to the size of a football, and even larger examples have been recorded. The hernia can become quite visible to the sufferer and to other people as it presses against the skin.

As it grows larger, with more intestine protruding through the abdominal wall, the hernia can cause more acute pain. It can also be extremely dangerous if the intestine becomes trapped inside the abdomen wall, as it may have a strangulating effect. This condition will not get better on its own, but must be surgically treated.

Apart from a natural weakness in the abdominal wall, there are a number of reasons hernias may occur. One of the most common is a sporting injury. The most frequent sports injury is a groin injury, in which the muscle can be easily torn or strained. If a lump appears in this area, it may be the result of an inguinal hernia. If physical therapy fails to treat this injury, the only other option is surgery.

There are a few surgical options available to treat this condition. One of the most common surgical procedures is a tension free repair. This consists of covering the hernia with a prosthesis. Tissue will grow through the inserted mesh and the disorder will be corrected. Most tension free repair surgeries last from 20 to 90 minutes and are performed under general anesthetic.

Other surgeries include pure tissue repairs and laparoscopic techniques. Your surgeon will advise on the best on the best type of surgery for your situation. When a hernia appears, it is always best to see your doctor as soon as possible; the longer you leave it, the bigger it will grow. Remember, although it can be caused by sport or other injuries, if the abdominal wall is weak, simply sneezing or coughing can cause a hernia.

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Discussion Comments

By anon344384 — On Aug 09, 2013

Whats the role of ethamsylate in a hernia?

By anon341400 — On Jul 11, 2013

I am 65 years old and have a hernia above my belly button about the size of a grapefruit. I weigh 205 pounds and the doctor said it should have been taken care of before it got this big. However, he wants me to lose 60 pounds before surgery. Is waiting dangerous and can I safely live without the surgery?

By anon288223 — On Aug 29, 2012

I think I have one. I'm only 15. I first noticed it a few days ago above my belly button and it would only hurt if I pressed on the small lump. It doesn't hurt as much but now there's a small indent above it.

By anon284791 — On Aug 11, 2012

Question: I'm not sure what it is or what it's from, but I have a hole like thing right above the top of my belly button. I can't feel it unless I apply pressure and it doesn't really hurt; it just feels like a bruise.

It's just about as wide as twp fingers and as long as maybe an inch or half in and maybe 3/4 of an inch deep -- not very deep at all. I don't know how I got it. Someone please reply with any reasons this could have occurred or if you know what it is, any info would definitely ease my mind a little bit.

By anon274536 — On Jun 12, 2012

I have a hernia larger than a football. It started off small, but over three years has grown to this size. The doctors do not want to operate because of my weight (350) and age (54). I also have high blood pressure.

However, I don't know how much larger this thing will grow. I have try to lose weight, but the hernia itself is so large that you would not be able to tell. What can I do?

By anon119791 — On Oct 19, 2010

My mother in law has the largest hernia I have ever seen. It protrudes and hangs past her stomach and down her legs and is even getting in the way of her walking. The doctors will not do anything for her because they are afraid that she is not in good enough health for surgery.

she is 72 years old, a diabetic, has high blood pressure but this hernia is making her life impossible, what can we do about it? it has been growing out of control, does she have any options? She is on medicare. Please help.

By anon104004 — On Aug 14, 2010

I have an umbilical hernia above my belly button and now I'm pregnant. It has gotten bigger, about the size of a golf ball since I became pregnant four months ago.

It looks ridiculous to me and other people ask what that lump is. I'm scared it's going to grow even larger as my pregnancy progresses. Has anyone had an umbilical hernia while pregnant before? If so, what was the outcome of it. Thanks so much!

By anon55747 — On Dec 09, 2009

after giving birth to my daughter 18 weeks ago, I 1st noticed after my c-section i had a lump the size of a golf ball just above my belly button that was causing a lot of pain.

My surgeon said this was normal, but since then it has grown to the size of a tennis ball and now is the size of a galia melon. I now look like I'm 4 months pregnant. could this be a hernia? thank you for any info.

By anon27669 — On Mar 04, 2009

i need to know all the types of hernias. so how many types are there?

By anon26222 — On Feb 10, 2009

I have had a small hernia in my belly button area for the past three years. It hasn't grown in size and it's not tender or discolored. I know surgery is an option, but at this time I don't feel the need to go that route.

I exercise regularly, lead an active life and have had no side effects as a result of having it. So long as you monitor it and there is no pain, the best course of action is possibly to do nothing.

By amye0110 — On Nov 05, 2008

hello, my fiance has a very painful hernia, if it does burst, how long does he have to get to a hospital?

By Yemaya85 — On Sep 11, 2007

My hubby was told that he has a Hernia. I believe it is a Hiatal Hernia. It is the size of a small football and it protrudes from right above his belly button he has been scheduled to see a surgeon. How will it be removed? And will he be in the hospital for a long time? Thank you

By anon484 — On Apr 26, 2007

I would like to know what I should do about the problem that I have there is a lump about the size of a golf ball that is sticking out of my bellybutton I noticed it a few months ago. When ever I sneeze it sticks out a little more and get harder and I don't have any insurance and I'm unemployed I'm worried should I go to the closest emergency room.

By anon186 — On Apr 18, 2007

i hear some people never bother to have an operation and live with it.

what are the facts, when is this a reasonable choice what are the pros and cons.

what signs to watch for saying it is a definte take the surgery? Pain is obvious.

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