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Abdominal Hernia

Q: Last month I strained by lower back and abdomen while moving a heavy box, and the pain and tenderness around my navel haven't gone away since. Sometimes I feel a small bulge in the area, and the pain can get so bad I have to lie down until it subsides. My husband thinks it's a hernia, but isn't that a male health problem?

Dr. Donnica:
I agree with your husband! You may have an abdominal hernia, a condition estimated to affect nearly 5 million American men, women, and children. A hernia is the protrusion of an organ through a weak area in the muscle or tissue that surround it. Abdominal hernias are the most common. The inner lining of the abdominal wall gets pushed through a weakness in the abdominal muscles, causing an outpouching of fat, tissue or intestine through the abdominal wall.
Inguinal hernias are a type of abdominal hernia that occur in the groin area. While inguinal hernias also affect women, they are much more common in men.

I recommend that you consult your physician for an exam and discuss your treatment options. Hernia repair, herniorraphy, is generally a minor surgical procedure. If untreated, a hernia can worsen and eventually emergency surgical treatment may be required.

While hernias can affect anyone (even babies), there are additional risk factors including anything (such as heavy lifting), which increases pressure or strains the abdominal wall. Other risk factors include having a chronic cough (e.g. smoker's cough); obesity; previous surgery in the affected area; constipation or other straining during bowel movements; pregnancy; or persistent sneezing (as with allergies).

To prevent your hernia from worsening until it can be repaired (and to prevent it from recurring once it is repaired), avoid or reduce as many of these risk factors as possible. Avoid any heavy lifting, pushing or pulling. Quit smoking. Maintain regular bowel habits by drinking 10 glasses of water per day, eating a high-fiber diet, and treating any constipation with a stool softener. Treat seasonal allergies or persistent cough. Ask your doctor if abdominal exercises are advisable. Take the necessary steps to maintain a healthy weight.

Created: 9/14/2004  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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