Hernias are usually the result of excessive internal bodily pressure combined with defects in the supporting muscles that hold organs in place. Therefore, hernias may be prevented by reducing pressures exerted on the body and by strengthening organ-supporting muscles, such as the abdominal "corset" muscles. Some methods to prevent the formation of hernia include the following.
Lifestyle modifications, such as exercise, diet and maintaining a constant healthy weight, can help prevent hernia formation. Since weak muscle tissues are important to hernia formation, toning organ-supporting muscles, such as the abdominal muscles, can decrease susceptibility to weak spots. Diets high in fiber-rich foods can also help prevent abdominal hernias by alleviating constipation, which is one of the causes of increased internal body pressure. Exercise, along with a healthy diet, can also help, because maintaining a healthy body weight and BMI avoids obesity, which is also one of the culprits in hernia formation. Since frequent and drastic weight fluctuations also lead to weakened muscle tissues, it is also advisable to keep a constant weight as a preventative measure. Finally, periodic relaxation in a busy schedule is important to avoid hernias, as high stress levels produce inflammatory responses in the body and may encourage hernia growth.
It is important to treat pre-existing medical conditions that may impact the body and increase internal pressures. Illnesses with symptoms such as heavy chronic coughing, internal fluid buildup or abnormal weight gain will increase internal body pressures.
Individuals with tissue and muscle disorders, as well as pregnant women, should consult a physician for preventative advice. Also, it is important to follow a doctor's instructions for post-surgery care, as improper attention may result in incisional hernias. Professional athletes or individuals whose jobs require constant heavy lifting should also consult a doctor on preventative measures to decrease the risk of hernias, since these people are constantly at risk for elevated internal pressure buildup and muscle tissue strains.
Hernias generally do not heal spontaneously, and will usually increase in size if left untreated. In mild cases, protrusions may be gently pushed back into the body cavity with the instruction of a licensed physician. However, to prevent reoccurrence, it is still important to treat the tissue defect that caused the hernia.
Physicians may try to use different forms of non-surgical treatments to alleviate the symptoms of hernias, since surgeries are usually performed as a last resort. Doctors may recommend patients with mild cases of diaphragmatic hernias to decrease internal body inflammation by quitting smoking or lessening the intake of hard liquor. In some cases, localized injections to hernia sites may help dissolve the protrusion without resorting to surgery. Certain massage therapies may also help gently eliminate bulges by returning protrusions back to the proper body cavity. Low-stress lifestyles are generally recommended to alleviate symptoms for mild cases of hernia. However, if severe symptoms such as vomiting, high fever or internal hemorrhaging are involved, then immediate surgery care will be needed to treat the condition.
Depending on the anatomical location of the hernia, the duration of the procedure as well as its recovery time may vary. Successful surgery will repair the hernia and end all symptoms. The prognosis of surgery is usually very effective and long-lasting, with a reoccurrence of less than 3 percent, if post-surgery care is carried out correctly.
Usually, general anesthesia is administered prior to the procedure, so no pain is felt during surgical repair. However, there are risks involving the use of anesthesia, so be sure to discuss possible anesthesia alternatives with your doctor. During the procedure, the doctor will make an incision at the hernia site and repair the protrusion by moving its contents back to the proper cavity, or remove the protrusion contents completely. Afterward, a piece of synthetic mesh will be surgically placed at the defected site to help strengthen the tissue walls. Gradually, the mesh will grow into the weakened tissue to help form a stronger barrier with the intension of preventing further weak spots.
One common type of surgery for abdominal-area hernia is the laparoscopic surgery. In this procedure, a fiber-optic viewing tube known as a laparoscope, along with special instruments, are used to repair the hernia. Three small incisions, roughly 10 millimeters each in length, are made in the belly button and each sides of the abdomen. The physician then inserts the laparoscope and repairs the protrusion via the special instruments. In more serious cases, such as intestine strangulation, the doctor may choose to entirely remove the contents of the hernia. Since this surgery utilizes tiny incisions, it requires less recovery time than traditional hernia repair surgery does.
It is important to treat hernias, since they can worsen to more serious medical conditions when left untreated. For example, intestinal strangulation may occur in untreated femoral and inguinal hernias, leading to serious digestive and bowel problems. Ulcers may form as a result of untreated diaphragmatic hernias. Gangrene, a life-threatening condition resulting from the obstruction of blood flow due to the protrusion, may also happen if hernias are left untreated.