An abdominal hernia is a bulge or swelling through your abdominal wall (tummy). It results from a weakness in your abdominal wall (tummy muscles) resulting in fat or bowel (most commonly) inside your abdomen pushing through in to the bulge/ swelling.
The hernia appears as a swelling on walking or straining and may disappear completely on lying down. With time the bowel or fat inside the hernia might get adhesions (stuck) within the hernia and the swelling might no longer disappear on lying down.
Common types of hernia
Inguinal hernias - occur when fatty tissue or a part of your bowel pokes through into your groin at the top of your inner thigh. This is the most common type of hernia and it mainly affects men. It’s often associated with ageing and repeated strain on the abdomen.
Femoral hernias - also occur when fatty tissue or a part of your bowel pokes through into your groin at the top of your inner thigh. They’re much less common than inguinal hernias and tend to affect more women than men. Like inguinal hernias, femoral hernias are also associated with ageing and repeated strain on the abdomen.
Umbilical hernias - occur when fatty tissue or a part of your bowel pokes through your abdomen near your belly button (navel). This type of hernia can occur in babies if the opening in the abdomen through which the umbilical cord passes doesn’t seal properly after birth. Adults can also be affected, possibly because of repeated strain on the abdomen.
Epigastric hernias - occur when fatty tissue pokes through your abdomen, between your umbilicus (belly button) and the lower part of your sternum (breastbone).
Incisional Hernias - occur when fatty tissue or a part of your bowel pokes through a weakness in the muscle is caused by the cut in your abdomen from previous abdominal surgery. The hernia might be a small one to start with and might slowly enlarge over time.
Hiatal hernias - occur when part of the stomach pushes up into your chest by squeezing through an opening in the diaphragm (the thin sheet of muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen). This type of hernia may not have any noticeable symptoms, although it can cause heartburn in some people.
Other rarer types of hernias include:
Spigelian hernias where part of your bowel pokes through your abdomen at the side of your abdominal muscle, below your navel
Diaphragmatic hernias where organs in your abdomen move into your chest through an opening in the diaphragm; this can also affect babies if their diaphragm doesn’t develop properly in the womb or occur after severe abdominal injury.
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