Affecting approximately 5 million Americans each year, hernias can produce dull discomfort or attention-grabbing pain. If you are experiencing pain from a hernia, realize it’s not likely to go away without some type of treatment, usually surgery. If you go to a hernia clinic, you’ll be able to receive a thorough evaluation and treatment specific to your type of hernia.
Here’s what you need to know about hernias and what may happen when you visit a clinic that specializes in this medical condition.
A hernia clinic is prepared to treat all types of hernias. Most hernias are inguinal hernias. They occur when the intestines protrude through a tear or weak spot in part of the abdominal wall, usually in a spot referred to as the inguinal canal. In men, the spermatic cord connects to the scrotum here. Women have a ligament that supports the uterus in this location. Inguinal hernias tend to occur more often in men, possibly because the testicles normally descend in this area. When they do, the canal sometimes doesn’t properly close, which creates a weak spot. Other types of hernias include:
Common types of hernias are usually diagnosed at a clinic with a physical examination. A doctor or specialist may also feel the area where pain is being experienced to determine if a hernia can be detected. An endoscopy may be performed to identify a suspected hiatal hernia. Performed after drinking a special solution, a barium X-ray of the digestive tract may also be done. Umbilical hernias may be diagnosed with a ultrasound, which involves the use of sound waves to view internal structures and tissues.
If symptoms are minor and the bulge isn’t severe, a doctor may suggest monitoring the hernia and tracking its size and the severity of related symptoms. Symptoms sometimes become less noticeable with lifestyle changes. Patients may be advised to lose weight and avoid heavy meals. Certain exercises may strengthen abdominal wall muscles and soft tissues enough to ease symptoms.
However, care must be taken to avoid doing exercises that are too strenuous. For this reason, patients may be referred to a physical therapist so that safe exercises can be recommended. In some instances, hernia symptoms may be managed with medication that reduces stomach acid. Avoiding overly acidic foods can also help minimize symptoms that may be aggravated by stomach acid.
It’s important to note that while lifestyle changes may make symptoms more manageable, such adjustments will not reverse the hernia itself. If symptoms are getting worse or discomfort is severe because the hernia is large, open or laparoscopic surgery is usually recommended. In rare instances when surgery cannot be performed, patients may be advised to wear a truss or belt to keep the hernia from becoming more severe. In children, pressure may be applied in an attempt to reduce the bulge before surgery is performed.
With open hernia repair, a larger incision is made to access the affected area. The protruding tissue is pushed back to its original location. The hole or weak spot that allowed the tissue to push through is then sewn up. Synthetic mesh (hernioplasty) is sometimes used to reinforce the weakened or damaged area after it’s surgically sewn together. It may take several weeks for patients to fully resume activities after open hernia surgery.
Laparoscopic hernia surgery is a minimally invasive procedure performed with a few strategically placed small incisions instead of a single larger one. When performed in the abdominal area, gas is used to inflate the abdomen to make internal organs easier to view. A lighted tube attached to a camera called a laparoscope is used by the surgeon to help manipulate special instruments to repair the damage with synthetic mesh. Recovery from laparoscopic surgery may take less time since incisions are smaller.
Only 20 percent of hernia sufferers have them repaired. However, putting off treatment can increase the risk of experiencing potentially serious complications. By seeking treatment at a hernia clinic, you’ll have access to an assortment of options, many of which involve less invasive techniques. As far as preventing hernias goes, it can help to practice proper lifting techniques, eat a high-fiber diet to reduce constipation issues, get regular exercise that focuses on core muscle groups, maintain a healthy weight, and do proper warm-ups before exercise or activity.