Understanding the Types of Hernias
A hernia is when part of the body pushes into an area it doesn’t belong. Because there are a lot of places in the body (um, everywhere!) where this can happen, there are a lot of different types of hernias.
A hiatal hernia occurs when the stomach bulges up into the chest through the opening where the esophagus connects to the stomach, called the hiatus. Also called a hiatus hernia, there are actually two different kinds of hiatal hernias: sliding and paraesophageal.
In a sliding hernia, both the stomach and the section of the esophagus that is connected to the hiatus slide up through the opening in the hiatus into the chest area. This is the most common type of hiatal hernia.
In a paraesophageal hernia, the hiatus and esophagus stay in their positions, but part of the stomach squeezes through the hiatus and winds up next to the esophagus.1 While this type of hernia is less common, it is much more dangerous as the blood supply to the stomach may be cut-off.
An inguinal hernia occurs when fatty or intestinal tissues push through the inguinal canal. The inguinal canal rests in the groin area at the bottom of the abdomen. An inguinal hernia may result in a protruding bulge that can be quite painful, or may not produce any symptoms at all.2
A ventral hernia occurs when tissues push through an opening in the abdominal wall muscles. Many of these are also incisional hernias — hernias that occur at an incision site of a past surgery. These often occur because the skin is weak or thin from the surgery. A ventral hernia, however, is a hernia that appears anywhere along the abdominal wall.
Symptoms of a ventral hernia can range from no symptoms at all to discomfort or pain in the abdomen area, bulging of skin/tissue, or nausea/vomiting.3
As mentioned above, an incisional hernia is a hernia that erupts through a previous surgical incision. The incisions are often in the abdominal wall in order to get at internal organs. Examples of these surgeries would be an appendectomy or a caesarian section.4
Incisional hernias are remarkably common, occurring in an estimated 12-15% of abdominal operations.5
An umbilical hernia is exactly like what it sounds — a hernia through your belly button! An umbilical hernia occurs when the opening where the umbilical cord was attached doesn’t heal completely and tissue and/or intestines bulge through.
In babies, this type of hernia isn’t usually painful and about 90 percent heal on their own, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.6 In adults, an umbilical hernia occurs when too much pressure is placed on the wall of the stomach — for example, being overweight, frequent pregnancies, multiple (twins, triplets) pregnancies, abdominal surgery, etc.7
Do You Have a Hernia?
No matter what type of hernia you may have, it can be very dangerous if the hernia strangulates (when the tissue gets trapped and loses its blood supply). Hernias only get larger and more problematic over time, so it is important to seek medical attention if you think you may have one.
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