A highly prevalent medical issue in males, hernias can be a painful and uncomfortable health problem to experience. Yet, there are preventative measures and treatments available to manage the condition.
Hernias should be evaluated and managed accordingly at an early stage to prevent increasing levels of pain and discomfort and possibly correct the problem before a complication arises.
What follows will be a discussion of the medical condition of a hernia, including definition, what types there are, what causes them, and how they are treated.
What is a Hernia?
A hernia is a protrusion of an organ or fatty tissue through a weakened area or opening in the muscle tissue. While there are several types, sizes, and severity levels of hernias, they most commonly occur in and around the abdominal region of the body.
We’ll focus on the more common and prevalent abdominal hernias in the following discussion.
Types of abdominal hernias include:
- Inguinal Hernia
- Incisional or Ventral Hernias
- Spigelian Hernia
- Umbilical Hernia
The most common type of hernia is the inguinal hernia. An inguinal hernia occurs in the area of the inguinal canal, which is the canal through which the inguinal ligament passes from inside the abdomen down to the level of the scrotum in the male. This type of hernia can occur at the opening of the inguinal canal inside the abdomen or through a muscle defect near this area. In addition, the hernia can sometimes contain intestinal contents. There is a risk of intestinal obstruction with this type of hernia when this occurs.
Incisional or Ventral Hernia
Ventral hernias are hernias that occur through a defect in the abdominal wall. They are frequently called incisional hernias if they occur at a previous surgical incision site. The contents of the hernia are usually fatty tissue.
This type of hernia occurs in a unique, oblique location on the side of the abdomen. A Spigelian hernia is one of the least common hernias in men and women, accounting for only 1-3% of cases.
An umbilical hernia occurs at the location of the umbilicus, and although most commonly seen in newborns, it does occur in men, often related to obesity.
Other common hernias unrelated to the abdominal region include femoral hernia (upper thigh near the groin) and hiatal hernia (part of the stomach herniates through the diaphragm).
What Causes a Hernia?
Most hernias can be related to specific causes and associated risk factors, especially for men.
Some of the most common causes of hernias in men, especially in the inguinal region, are as follows:
- Rigorous or Strenuous Physical Activity
- Chronic Cough and Sneezing
- Forcing Bowel Movements
- Forcing Urination Due To Prostate Issues
- Weak Abdominal Wall
- Previous Injury
While hernias can present themselves in men and women, they’re predominantly a male public health issue as they are eight times more likely to occur in men.
Hernias often get worse if they don’t receive medical attention in a timely fashion.
How to Treat a Hernia
Depending on the severity of the hernia, the two primary treatment and prevention protocols are surgery and lifestyle changes.
Surgical repair of hernias has advanced dramatically due to the development of laparoscopic surgery. In particular, for the treatment of inguinal hernias, this has led to much better outcomes. Laparoscopic surgery is less invasive, and recovery is quicker than the traditional open external repair of inguinal hernias. The external repair could be compared to “plugging up a hole”, whereas the laparoscopic repair prevents anything from going through the “hole” from the inside. Therefore, laparoscopic repair is a much more efficient technique.
Not all patients are good candidates for surgery, and a consultation with a surgeon is the best way to determine if surgery is indicated. An example of nonsurgical treatment of a hernia is via the use of a truss. A truss or hernia belt is a device that helps to hold in the hernia material and prevent it from protruding and causing pain or discomfort. This method can be very helpful in patients who either can’t have surgery due to high medical risk or who do not want surgery.
In the case of a hiatal hernia, treatment is usually not required. Many of the individuals who have a hiatal hernia have no symptoms. It’s best to seek medical attention for the proper guidance in all of these cases.
Some hernia risk factors for males can’t be avoided, but lifestyle changes can help prevent their occurrence. These lifestyle changes include but are not limited to losing weight, stopping smoking, avoiding strenuous activity, partaking in muscular strength regimens, eating a diet consisting of high fiber, and avoiding anything that puts pressure on the abdomen.
Medical treatment for chronic cough, constipation, and benign prostatic hyperplasia can help prevent the formation of hernias. In addition, early evaluation and treatment of hernias by a medical professional will lead to the best possible outcomes.