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What Happens If You Ignore A Hernia?

There are several materials in the body that make up important, protective layers. In the abdomen we have muscle, connective tissue, and fat that overlay our internal organs. Each element has its designated place and job. In the abdomen, these layers can sometimes become weakened, making it easier for things to shift out of their normal home. Fatty tissue or even an organ, often your intestine, can push through a weak area causing a bulge. This is where a hernia occurs. This bulge may start off small and grow over time, or it can occur suddenly or wax and wane. The bulge itself may be painful, but many patients do not experience pain. Not all hernias will require surgical treatment, but it important to not ignore symptoms if a hernia occurs or if you know you have an existing hernia.

Hernia complications can be major

Beyond discomfort and a visible or palpable bulge, symptoms of a hernia can include pain during physical activities, pain while sneezing or coughing, constipation, nausea and vomiting. Typical hernia sites are in the groin, navel or near a previous abdominal scar. Ignoring a hernia or not seeking treatment can result in more serious complications including intestinal blockage, hernia incarceration, or hernia strangulation.

Intestinal blockage occurs when the herniated bowel is pinched to a point where normal waste cannot be passed, typically in this situation the hernia is considered incarcerated, meaning it has become trapped. This constitutes an emergency situation. Beyond this, when strangulation occurs the flow of blood has been cut off from the protruding tissue. Without blood, this tissue dies. Again, this will require emergency surgery. It is our goal to avoid medical emergencies by treating a hernia before major complications are likely to occur. That being said, these situations can come on suddenly, so quickly taking steps for evaluation and treatment are important.

Why do hernias occur?

The weakness that allows for protrusion can be existing or the result of repetitive stress on an area.

  • Unstabilized heavy lifting
  • Obesity
  • Poor nutrition
  • Smoking
  • Straining with bowel movements
  • Coughing or sneezing persistently
  • A weakness you are born with
  • Previous abdominal surgery
  • Pregnancy

If you think you may have a hernia, we encourage you to talk to you doctor or call our office to schedule a general surgery consultation.