Ultimately, all hernias are caused by a combination of pressure and an opening or weakness of muscle or fascia: The pressure pushes an organ or tissue through the opening or weak spot. Sometimes the muscle weakness is present at birth; more often, it occurs later in life.
Risk factors for developing a hernia include:
- A chronic cough (often due to smoking)
- Straining during bowel movements or while urinating
- Straining to lift heavy objects
- Persistent sneezing (such as that caused from allergies)
According to Dr. Steven B. Hopson, Director of the Bon Secours Hernia Center, “a hernia does not get better on its own- it either stays the same or gets worse.” The only way to cure a hernia is with surgery. Luckily, says Dr. Hopson, “advances in minimally invasive hernia procedures offer patients a way to get back to work right away” with minimum discomfort.
If you suspect you have a hernia, see your doctor. A doctor’s physical examination is often enough to diagnose a hernia. Sometimes hernia swelling is visible when you stand upright; usually, the hernia can be felt if you place your hand directly over it and then bear down. Frequently a hernia is a source of pain and discomfort. X-rays such as CT scan and ultrasound may be used to diagnose a hernia. By putting off a visit to the doctor or a specialist a patient puts his or herself at risk for complications that can lead to emergency surgery.