Hernia signs and treatment in women
Although hernias are more common in men, women are more likely to get a hernia than many people think. So how can you recognize and manage a hernia? We’ll go over types of hernias, hernia causes, and possible treatments.
What causes a hernia?
In general, a hernia is just a hole in which something can protrude. Hernias are due to a combination of pressure and a weakness in muscle or tissue. An organ or tissue can push through gaps or weak points in the muscular wall. The triggers of a hernia in your abdomen include pressure due to:pregnancy-tests
- Heavy lifting without proper form or stabilization of muscles
- Bowel movement issues (diarrhea or constipation)
- Persistent coughing or sneezing
Risk factors that increase the likelihood of getting a hernia by weakening muscles include:
- Weight gain
- Poor nutrition
- Surgical history (especially to your abdomen)
- The aging process
- Your family history
Types of hernias
Hernias can be categorized depending on their location (internal or external) or severity. External hernias push through muscles to just underneath your skin, and internal hernias occur when something pushes through muscle layers deeper under the skin.
Inguinal hernias are much more common in men because men have a natural points of separation in the anatomy of their groin area that can make them more susceptible to a hernia in this area. However, it is possible for women to also get an inguinal hernia, particularly if the woman has a condition that increases pressure within the abdomen. This type of hernia can be further classified as direct or indirect.
Surgery can weaken abdominal muscles, increasing the risk of getting a hernia near or in the site of where an incision was made. This risk increases further if you’re too active while you’re healing from surgery. This type of hernia is more common in the elderly or those with significant weight gain.
Women are more likely to get femoral (outer groin) hernias. Femoral hernias are more likely in women who are pregnant or have significant weight gain.
An umbilical hernia occurs in or near the belly button. This type of hernia is common in women who’ve had multiple children or women with weight gain.
When part of your stomach bulges through the diaphragm (the muscle between your abdomen and chest), you have a hiatal hernia. You might not see a lump, but larger hernias can cause heartburn, acid reflux, shortness of breath, or difficulty swallowing. An injury to your diaphragm can cause a hiatal hernia, as can age-related changes.
Less common types of hernias include giant abdominal wall hernias or Spigelian hernias. A giant abdominal wall hernia may be due to a repetitive incisional hernia. When fat tissue pushes through the muscle in your lower abdomen, it’s a Spigelian hernia.
How do you recognize a hernia?
Signs of a hernia vary depending on the type of hernia and its location. Some do not cause any issues while others may cause some of the symptoms listed below, which can ultimately lead to other complications. Common symptoms in several types of hernia include:
- A heavy feeling, burning sensation, or other discomforts
- Visible bulge
Reach out to your primary care provider if you suspect you have a hernia. Hernia symptoms such as swelling may not be obvious, making self-diagnosis unreliable. Hernias don’t usually go away on their own.
Leaving a hernia untreated might cause obstruction, strangulation, or other complications. Signs of a strangulated hernia include sudden pain that quickly intensifies, a dark hernia bulge (red or purple), and fever. Chronic pain is a possible complication with some types of hernias.
Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of hernias
Hernias aren’t entirely preventable, but you can reduce the risk of getting a hernia by:
- Keeping a healthy diet and exercising regularly
- Avoid constipation by consuming enough fibrous foods
- When lifting heavy items, make sure to use the proper form (avoid ego-lifting when working out)
- Avoid smoking — smoking can lead to coughing that can trigger a hernia
In many cases, a hernia can be diagnosed with a physical exam. It’s usually possible to see or feel a bulge without specialized testing or imaging. Your primary care provider may order an x-ray or ultrasound to determine the cause of your discomfort if it’s unclear from the physical exam.
Misdiagnosis is possible if the hernia is internal or too small to feel a bulge. Some other things that may seem like a hernia include: ovarian cysts, fibroids, endometriosis, or another abdominal issue.
Treatment will depend on the type of hernia you’re experiencing. Surgery may be a common recommendation for any time of hernia in order to prevent the possibility of developing further complications.
Surgery options are minimally invasive surgery (laparoscopic) or open surgery. In open surgery, the surgeon makes a cut at the hernia location, pushes the tissue back into place, and stitches the fascia, muscle, and skin back together. Mesh is occasionally used in the repair to strengthen and support the area. The goal for treatment is to prevent future issues by strengthening the wall. Watchful waiting or weight loss may sometimes might be the first step to treatment alternative to surgery.
See your primary care provider as soon as you think you might be dealing with a hernia to prevent possible complications.