Notice a lump or swelling in your groin or abdominal wall? Does the lump look bigger when you are standing up and disappear when you lie down? You may have a hernia.

All about hernia

Hernia occurs when a weakness in the abdominal wall allows abdominal contents such as the intestine to poke through the wall, causing a bulge to appear underneath the skin.

“Though generally non-life-threatening, a hernia may become a medical emergency if the bowel gets obstructed or strangulated. If the blood supply to the intestine or any other organ gets cut off, gangrene can set in,” says Prof Wong Wai Keong, Head and Senior Consultant, Department of General Surgery, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.

Immediate surgery is then required to repair the damaged intestine and fix the hernia, adds Prof Wong. The SGH Department of General Surgery sees over 1,000 cases of groin hernia per year.

Common types of hernia

Most hernias occur in the groin and abdominal wall.

  • Groin hernia (inguinal hernia)
  • Most common in men, an inguinal hernia occurs when the intestine pushes through a weakness in the lower abdominal wall into the groin or even the scrotum. About 75 per cent of abdominal wall hernias are inguinal hernias.

  • Incisional hernia
  • A surgical wound in the abdomen that hasn’t properly healed may allow an internal organ to protrude and cause an incisional hernia.

  • Femoral hernia
  • More common in women, a femoral hernia appears as a lump in the inner thigh near the groin. This happens when abdominal tissues push through the lower abdomen into the femoral canal, a passage that carries blood vessels to the leg.

  • Umbilical hernia
  • An umbilical hernia appears as a lump in the navel of babies and infants. It develops when abdominal contents push through the abdominal wall near the navel. The lump should shrink by age one.

    Umbilical hernia may also occur in adults when a defect around the navel causes a swelling or lump in that region. Surgery is required in adults as the hernia won’t go away by itself.

What causes hernia?

Heavy lifting, excessive straining during bowel movements and persistent coughing can all put excessive pressure on the abdomen and cause a hernia to develop. Obesity increases the risk of getting a hernia.

Read on to learn about the diagnosis and treatment for hernia.