Hernia: Causes, treatments, and diagnosis

Hernia is a common problem. It causes a localized bulge in the abdomen or groin.

It can often be harmless and pain-free, but at times it can bring discomfort and pain.

In this article, we investigate what a hernia is, the common causes of hernia, and how they are treated.

Fast facts on hernias

Here are some key points about hernias. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.

Hernias often produce no troublesome symptoms, but abdominal complaints may signal a serious problem.

They are usually straightforward to diagnose, simply by feeling and looking for the bulge.

Treatment is a choice between watchful waiting and corrective surgery, either via an open or keyhole operation.

Inguinal hernia surgery is more common in childhood and old age, while the likelihood of femoral hernia surgery increases throughout life.

Overview: What is a hernia?

Umbilical hernia
Umbilical hernia.

A hernia occurs when there is a weakness or hole in the peritoneum, the muscular wall that usually keeps abdominal organs in place.

This defect in the peritoneum allows organs and tissues to push through, or herniate, producing a bulge.

The lump may disappear when the person lies down, and sometimes it can be pushed back into. Coughing may make it reappear.

Man smoking a cigarette in a darkened room
Smoking tobacco increases the risk of inguinal hernias.

older adults

people with close relatives who have had inguinal hernias

people who have had inguinal hernias previously


smokers, as chemicals in tobacco weaken tissues, making a hernia more likely

people with chronic constipation

premature birth and low birth weight


Umbilical hernia risk factors

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