Hernia - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA


What is a Hernia?

A hernia is a protrusion of part of an organ through the muscle wall that surrounds it. Common hernias include hiatal hernias and inguinal hernia.

Hiatal Hernia

A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach pushes up into the chest through a small opening in the diaphragm, the muscle that separates the abdomen from the chest. A hiatal hernia results in retention of acid and other contents, since the stomach tends to get squeezed by this opening in the diaphragm.

Symptoms of a hiatal hernia include:
  • Heartburn
  • Belching
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting or regurgitation
  • Intermittent difficulty swallowing, especially solid foods
  • Feeling full after eating only a small amount of food
  • Abdominal or chest pain
  • Abdominal bleeding, which is apparent as bright red blood in vomit, as dark red or black stools or as anemia or blood loss, on a blood test
What causes a hiatal hernia?
  • The cause is unknown, but possible triggers include the following:
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Straining while having a bowel movement
  • Sudden physical exertion
  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity can also contribute to this disorder
How do you treat a hiatal hernia?

Treatment options vary, depending on your specific situation. It is important to seek the advice of a gastroenterologist for a specific treatment regime. In some cases treatment is not necessary, in other cases the symptoms can be treated with medication or with a surgical procedure.

Inguinal Hernia

An inguinal hernia is a bulge that occurs in your groin region, the area between the lower part of your abdomen and your thigh. Inguinal hernias occur because of a weakening of the muscles in the lower abdomen.

Symptoms of an inguinal hernia include:
  • A bulge that increases in size when you strain and disappears when you lie down
  • Sudden pain in your groin or scrotum when exercising or straining
  • A feeling of weakness, pressure, burning or aching in your groin or scrotum
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Fever
  • Pain that keeps getting worse
  • Redness
What causes an inguinal hernia?

Inguinal hernias may occur on one or both sides of the body and are much more common in men than women. An inguinal hernia can appear at any age. Infants may be born with one that doesn’t show up until they become adults. About five out of every 100 children are born with the condition.

An inguinal hernia can also develop over time if you increase pressure on the walls of your abdominal muscles through activities like straining to go to the bathroom, coughing over a long period, being overweight or lifting heavy weights. If you have a family history of inguinal hernia, you may be at a higher risk for one. Infants born before their due date are also at higher risk.

How do you treat an inguinal hernia?

The way to repair an inguinal hernia is usually with a surgical procedure. In adults with small hernias that don’t cause symptoms, treatment may only be to watch it. Adults with symptoms and most children usually have surgery to prevent the possible complication of a strangulated hernia in the future. An incarcerated or strangulated hernia may need emergency surgery.

How to Prevent a Hernia

Some hernias cannot be prevented because you may have been born with it. Others can be prevented by learning how to lift heavy objects properly, avoiding or treating constipation, seeking treatment for a persistent cough and maintaining a healthy body weight. If you think you have a hernia, seek the advice of a gastroenterologist.