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How Does a Hernia Develop?

By April Sanders ; Updated July 27, 2017

What is a Hernia?

Hernias happen when part of an organ or body cavity--usually small portions of the intestines or fatty tissue from the abdomen--protrude, or bulge, from the area in which they are normally contained. This usually happens when an abdominal wall develops tears or weak points. Hernias are classified according to where they occur:

Inguinal hernias are common in athletes and men. They occur as a bulge in the scrotum or groin. Femoral hernias appear in the upper portion of the thigh and are more common in women. Incisional hernias often happen through an abdominal scar.
Umbilical hernias are fairly common in newborns and develop when the muscle around the navel fails to completely close.

Causes and Risk Factors

The cause of a hernia can be difficult to determine, although they are sometimes caused by heavy lifting or extreme sports activity. They are commonly seen in infants and small children. They are more common in boys than girls and occur in 5 out of 100 children. Symptoms often are not noticed until adulthood.

Among risk factors for developing a hernia is family members who have had them. Also, those diagnosed with cystic fibrosis are more likely to develop hernias. Baby boys who have undescended testicles often get them, and people who are obese have a greater chance of developing one. Finally, straining to urinate or have bowel movements can sometimes cause hernias to develop.

Treatment of Hernias

Hernias are usually treated with minor surgery, called hernia repair. In most cases, the doctor will gently push the hernia back into its proper location and repair the hole through which it protruded. Sometimes the hole is covered with a netlike material to make it stronger. Hernias sometimes lead to a life-threatening reduction of blood flow, making it important to seek medical attention at once if you suspect you might have a hernia.

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