Hernias are very common among women. They occur when a portion of tissue or organ projects through a weakened muscle wall resulting in a bulge. The bulge could contain fatty lining, a colon or a portion of the intestine in the case of an abdominal hernia. Hernias are generally harmless and pain-free, but there are times they can be uncomfortable and painful.
Even though most times they do not present troublesome symptoms, there are times you could experience signs that indicate a severe problem. For that reason, you need to have it treated immediately. At GYN LA, we offer a full-service gynecological practice that is geared towards providing quality healthcare services for women of all ages. We provide special gynecology services, too, including hernia treatment, to restore the health of our patients. You can, therefore, get in touch with us if you are in Los Angeles, CA.
Types of Hernias in Women
Most hernias are those that occur on and around the abdominal walls, where you find all kinds of tissues and muscles. This is a part of the body where weak points can quickly develop, allowing what is contained in the abdominal opening to protrude. The most common types of hernias are those that occur in the groin, in the diaphragm as well as the belly button. Note that some of these hernias could show up at birth, while others develop way after that. Here are the main types of hernias on women:
These are the most common types of hernias in women, and they occur on or around the groin area. If there is a weakened area on that part of the body and is subjected to stress sometime in life, the vulnerable tissues might allow a piece of omentum or small bowel to slip through the area. It results in a painful lump. Inguinal hernias are common in men, though there are cases of such types of hernias in women.
An inguinal hernia could also occur if a small part of the small intestine pushes through an inguinal cord, which is the gap located on the outside of the abdominal wall near the groin. Sometimes the protruding part of the small intestine can be pushed back, but in cases where there is a more significant bulge, the [patient may require treatment.
This type of hernia could occur on an open part of the abdominal floor, a place where there could be space for the femoral vein and artery to go through from the stomach and to the upper part of a leg. This area has a broader bone structure, and for that reason, it is an area where most hernias in women occur. The problem is that these types of hernias are not easy to detect, which means they may not be caught and treated early until an emergency arises. Women should schedule a consultation with a gynecologist if and when they experience some pain in their groin area.
They are not very common but are also types of hernias that occur on women, especially for women who might have carried multiple pregnancies and those who might have lost a significant amount of weight. These types of hernias occur in the obturator canal, which is another connection between the intestinal cavity and the human leg. This canal has the obturator vein, nerve, and artery.
These types of hernias occur mainly in infants, because of weakness in the middle of their abdominal wall, an area where rectus muscles meet between the belly button and breastbone. However, in most cases, the weakness is not detected until later in the child's adult life. The weakness shows itself as a swelling in the higher abdomen. The most likely causes of this type of hernia are fat, bits of the bowel, or omentum, which gets trapped, resulting in a bulge.
They are the types of hernias that occur around umbilical cords that attach fetuses to their mothers for blood circulation. Such a hernia will manifest itself as an abnormal bulge inside the belly button. These types of hernias are common with newborn babies and are quite harmless unless there are complications. While some of these hernias disappear with time, some continue to grow well ahead in life and may require treatment. An umbilical hernia could occur in adult life, especially with the rapid expansion of the stomach as it happens during pregnancy. Some women develop these hernias after gaining so much weight in a short period, or even through excessive coughing.
These result as an abdominal surgery complication. Even though the muscle is repaired after such operations, it could become relatively weak, making it a potential spot for abdominal structures to develop into a hernia through the incision. Patients who have gone through an open surgery are likely to create this type of hernia. The hernia could develop at the site of the scar, which could be weakened by the continuous pressure exerted by intestines and other abdominal organs. These are common hernias in women, and since they do not quickly go away, they may require immediate intervention.
What Causes Hernias?
As mentioned above, some hernias present themselves at birth, while others grow over time inside weak points within a person's abdominal wall. When there is a weak point in the abdominal wall, and pressure is increased within the intestinal cavity, it can stress the vulnerable area, allowing part of the stomach cavity to bulge out. Tension in the abdominal area can be increased in several situations, such as:
- If a person has a chronic cough
- If there is increased fluid in the abdominal area,
- During peritoneal dialysis that is used in the treatment of kidney failure
- If there are masses or tumors in the stomach
This pressure can be increased by lifting weights, strain, especially if a person is experiencing difficulties when urinating or having bowel movements or even from abdominal trauma. Other factors that could result in hernia include excess weight around the abdomen, girth, and pregnancy.
People who have a higher risk of getting hernias are those who are likely to experience increased pressure on the abdomen. The pressure is what causes weakness on the part of the stomach wall, which could occur immediately or after a long time. Some of the risk issues include:
- Recurrent vomiting
- Chronic cough
- Chronic constipation
- Ascites, also known as an irregular collection of fluids in the intestinal cavity
- Abdominal masses
- Peritoneal dialysis
- Repeated lifting of heavy objects or moving
- Abdominal surgeries
Signs and Indications of Hernia
The most common indication for a developing hernia is a bulge, which can be felt quickly, even for those hernias developing in difficult-to-see areas. Other than the swelling, the patient could experience a sharp or burning pain in the affected area, mainly as a result of inflammation. A fullness feeling could also characterize a hernia growing in the groin.
Most hernias are safe until complications start to develop. It happens when an omentum or piece of the intestine gets trapped or incarcerated inside the hernia. If this happens and it swells, the patient may require urgent surgical intervention because the trapped intestine will lose its supply of blood and get strangulated. A complication could be characterized by a significant amount of pain, vomiting, and nausea. These signs are a clear indication that the development of bowel has been obstructed. The patient could also develop fever, which is mainly associated with a dead or strangulated colon.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Hernias in Women
Once you have experienced the signs above, it is essential to go in for a physical examination. For most patients, a burning, pain, and sense of fullness are clear indications of a developing hernia, which will later be confirmed by a doctor.
However, obturator and femoral hernias are a little difficult to diagnose, even when the patient is experiencing such symptoms as pelvic or inguinal pain. In that case, you may need to undergo a computerized tomography scan, (CT scan), to disclose the exact diagnosis. As for umbilical hernias, they are straightforward to locate since they simply present as a huge bulge on the belly button
Note that strangulated or incarcerated hernias are a bit challenging to diagnose and treat, though urgent intervention is necessary because of the issue of dead bowel. Your doctor will first seek signs of obstruction by establishing whether or not there is recurring pain, vomiting, nausea, or fever.
Physical examinations could also reveal a firm or tender mark on the abdomen, which is enough reason to suspect strangulation or incarceration. When this is diagnosed, there will be a need for an immediate consultation with a surgeon.
Surgical and Non-surgical Treatment for Hernia
Not all types of hernias are surgically treated. The most common type that will require surgical intervention is an inguinal hernia. However, other abdominal hernias can be treated the same way, provided the patient’s health is exploited to reduce the risks associated with the operation and the anesthesia.
For surgical treatments, your doctor will use an open surgery procedure or laparoscope, called herniorrhaphy. In the process, the surgeon will directly repair the hernia via an incision into the stomach wall. This is an operation that is only done in emergency cases and also, depending on the clinical condition of the patient. Most hernias can be treated the same way, to reinforce the weakness in the wall of the abdomen, as well as reduce the risk of complications associated with bowel strangulation and incarceration.
For hernias that are associated with GERD, surgical treatment is not always the best option. For them, medical therapy is seen as the best treatment available, and it involves diet, medication, and weight loss, and lifestyle changes. These will control the symptoms and reduce the patient's need for a surgical procedure.
Small umbilical or inguinal hernias that do not cause alarming symptoms do not require surgical intervention as well. These only need a watchful wait and a regular follow-up. They may not present any problems, especially if they are not growing in size. But, if it develops or there is suspicion for possible incarceration, a surgical procedure might be recommended. If the patient is at a high risk of anesthesia or surgery complications, the doctor may adopt a wait-and-watch approach.
Other non-surgical treatments available include binders, trusses, or corsets. These can be used to hold the hernia in, by applying direct pressure in the affected skin and the stomach wall. These treatments are temporary, though, and could result in skin breakdown or damage. An infection could also occur due to chafing and rubbing. These treatments are usually recommended for older, deliberated patients who have larger hernias and are at a higher risk of experiencing anesthesia and surgery complications.
Are There Hernia Complications?
The only complications associated with hernias are strangulations and incarcerations. Incarcerations occur when fat or a bit of bowel gets trapped in a hernia, causing an even more substantial swelling. Strangulation, on the other hand, occurs at the point where the flow of blood to the affected tissues dies or is lost.
If an abdominal hernia becomes big, part of the esophagus or stomach may be displaced to the chest. Based on the location of the hernia, and the exact situation, the stomach could twist, causing more severe strangulation. It will call for an urgent surgical treatment
The good thing is that hernias can be prevented in some cases, by maintaining a healthy diet, a healthy weight, and seeking immediate medical care immediately you experience some of the symptoms mentioned above.
Find a Gynecologist Near Me
Hernias can either be harmless or harmful, depending on the type and size of hernia you have. It is advisable to have proper diagnosis immediately if you experience pain, discomfort, or a sensation of fullness. An early diagnosis will enable your doctor to diagnose and recommend the best treatment option before the hernia gets complicated. If you are in Los Angeles, CA, and you are experiencing any or more of the symptoms mentioned, call us at 310-375-8446. At GYN LA, we have a highly skilled and experienced medical team that will take care of your every need.