Hernias happen when an internal body part, organ or fatty tissue abnormally protrudes under the skin due to defected or weakened surrounding muscle tissues. As such, they can be found almost anywhere on the body, and are usually classified by the anatomical location they affect. Hernias are more often found in the lower torso area. Some of the more common hernia types include the following:
The inguinal hernia is the most common type of hernia, as it makes up more than 70 percent of hernia cases and is more commonly found in males than in females. Inguinal hernia occurs in the groin area, where the skin of the thigh and the torso joins, also known as the inguinal fold. This type of hernia is further classified into two types, direct and indirect.
Indirect inguinal hernia: Indirect inguinal hernias normally results from a failed embryonic closure. Usually, during the formation of male sex characteristics during the fetal stage, a peritoneal pathway is formed when the testes of the male fetus descend. While the pathway normally closes before birth, sometimes it can fail to do so. In such cases, the peritoneal opening will serve as the site of protrusion for future indirect inguinal hernias. Initially, escaped fatty tissues usually cause the bulge, but if left untreated, then the small intestine may also escape into the hernia. For men, the indirect inguinal hernia can continue to descend into the scrotum and cause groin hernia. For women, indirect inguinal hernias are simply sacs created from weakened points in the internal inguinal ring, and may further descend into the labia of the vagina. Indirect inguinal hernias can happen to anyone at any age.
Direct inguinal hernia: Direct inguinal hernias usually protrude through a weakened or thinned point in the abdominal tissue. Unlike indirect inguinal hernias, direct inguinal hernias rarely protrude into the scrotum or the labia. Middle-aged and elderly individuals are more prone to direct inguinal hernias than are younger individuals, since abdominal walls naturally weaken with age.
When an affected individual suffers from both types of inguinal hernia, the combined condition can be referred to as a "pantaloon hernia" due to its appearance.
Another common type of hernia is the femoral hernia, which affects both men and women. Since these hernias usually occur just below the inguinal ligament in the femoral canal area, it can be easily confused with inguinal hernia to the untrained eye. When tissues in the femoral canal, located near the upper inner thigh, are compromised or weakened, intestines may spill past the tissue into a bulge. If left untreated, femoral hernias may lead to intestinal necrosis (tissue death and decay), vomiting or severe abdominal pain. This type of hernia is more common in women than in men, due to the female's wider pelvis bone structure, as well as in children with a prior connective tissue disorder.
Umbilical hernias are commonly found at the site of the belly button, since abdominal tissues are naturally thinner at the navel. Protrusions occur when increased intra-abdominal pressure pushes the intestines through the weakened wall. Obesity, constant heavy lifting, chronic coughing, or pregnancy can contribute to the formation of umbilical hernias. Normally, these hernias can naturally resolve, although surgery may be needed for persistent cases. Umbilical hernias are also more common among women than among men, and in infants of African descent.
If an individual has had prior abdominal or pelvic surgery, then the weakened tissues around the surgery site may serve as the site for incisional hernias. Since removal surgery may further damage the already weakened tissue, this type of hernia is more difficult to treat, as it has a higher rate of reoccurrence due to further tissue undermining.
When there is a defect in the diaphragm (a muscle that separates the abdomen and the lung cavity), part of the stomach or intestines may protrude upward into the chest cavity and cause internal bulges. Defects in the diaphragm may be due to internal tears, or weakening of tissues from a prior pulmonary disease. Diaphragmatic hernias are further classified into congenital diaphragmatic hernia, hiatal hernia, iatrogenic diaphragmatic hernia and traumatic diaphragmatic hernia. If left untreated, diaphragmatic hernias may lead to lung infections or impaired respiratory development in infants.
Spinal hernias occur when the fibrous lining of a vertebral disc tears, and the soft, jelly-like central portion of the spine bulges out. The jelly-like center, known as nucleus pulposus, normally helps to distribute pressure evenly among the spinal discs. As a result, uneven spinal pressure may irritate nerves and cause neurological symptoms, such as severe pain, numbness or decreased mobility. If left untreated, spinal hernias may worsen to more serious diseases, depending on the affected region of the spinal cord.
While the above are a few of the more common types of hernia, this condition can happen at any weakened point in muscle tissues. Be sure to consult your doctor if you suspect you have hernia so that he or she can correctly diagnose and treat the condition.