What Is a Hernia? (video)

What are the symptoms, causes and treatments for hernias?

What are the symptoms, causes and treatments for hernias?

Adam Fierer, MD, a general surgeon at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas, explains the causes and symptoms of a hernia as well as treatments, including minimally invasive surgery.

Video transcript

What is a hernia?

What is a hernia?

Probably, the most common question I get asked in my office is: What is a hernia? It's probably one of the most difficult answers.

First of all, there are a lot of different types of hernias. There are abdominal wall hernias and inguinal hernias. A hernia is essentially a protrusion of something through an opening in the abdominal cavity. It can be the intestine. It can be fat. It can even be other organs that are pushing through.

How does a hernia happen?

Hernias are a combination of life stresses, just daily living. There's coughing and sneezing and lifting, and everything that puts a strain on the abdominal wall.

But genetics also is a large component of hernias. Probably more people than we know are going to end up having some sort of genetic predisposition to hernia formation. Normal life occurrences of stressing and straining then create those hernias in those patients. 

What are the symptoms of a hernia?

Hernias can have or not have symptoms. It's not unusual for someone to be in the shower one day and notice they have a lump somewhere. Other people notice an extreme amount of pain all of a sudden, maybe after doing some sort of stressful activity. After the pain settles down, they notice they have a lump.

So, it really can be both, but mostly it's pain and a lump.

How is a hernia treated with surgery?

Most but not all hernias are treated surgically.

Treating a hernia generally involves recreating or rebuilding the abdominal wall. Most of the time that involves the use of mesh. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes you can rebuild the abdominal wall just using the natural tissues. Some of those are very simple. Some of those are very complex.

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