Hernia: Crossing the line

Hernia occurs when organs suddenly start intruding into the space of other organs. Read on to know why it happens...

Woman with abdominal pain

The organs in our body are contained in cavities. When an organ starts to protrude into the wall of its cavity, it’s called hernia. It is a fairly common condition that can affect anyone from a new born to an 80-year old.

What happens

There are three cavities in our body—the skull, the chest and the abdomen. Usually, hernia concerns the abdominal cavity that comprises the large and small intestines, the liver, the kidneys, the spleen and the internal reproductive organs [large chunk of it in females and a relatively small part in males].

Our abdomen is covered by muscles and skin, externally, and by a covering called peritoneum, internally. If there is some weakness in the skin wall pressure, the abdomen can push its organs outwards through the weak area causing hernia. The weakness may be since birth or acquired later in life due to muscular weakness or surgery of the abdomen [which is more common in females].

What are the causes?

Some reasons, which could lead to hernia include:

  • Genetics: If either or both of your parents have had hernia, you are more likely to develop it.
  • Age: The older you are, the higher is your risk of developing hernia.
  • Pregnancy: The muscles of the mother’s abdomen stretch, making it easier for the inner tissues to poke through.
  • Drastic weight loss: If you are obese and you lose too much weight suddenly, you are more prone to developing hernia.

The types

Hernias are of two types—external and internal. Let’s understand both types properly.

External type

  • Inguinal and femoral hernias: Together, they are categorised as groin hernia. When the abdominal contents start protruding out of the abdominal wall from its lower anterior side, it is known as inguinal hernia. When a section of the intestines juts out from the abdominal wall near the thigh, it is called femoral hernia.
  • Umbilical hernia: When the lining of the abdomen or an organ protrudes around the belly button, it is called umbilical hernia.
  • Ventral hernia: This happens when part of the contents of the abdominal cavity bulges through the cavity and into the abdominal wall.

Internal type

  • Hiatus hernia: This happens when the upper part of the stomach starts poking into the thorax.
  • Diaphragmatic hernia: When a dent in the diaphragm allows the abdominal contents to move into the chest cavity, it is diaphragmatic hernia.

Common symptoms

The symptoms depend on the type of hernia. They commonly include:

  • Lump or protrusion in the abdominal area that is clearly visible when standing and disappears on lying down.
  • Excruciating pain at the site of the lump.
  • Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.

Treatment option

Hernias can be treated by a simple operation, which involves repairing the defect and correcting the weakness with a mesh. The surgery can either be done by open method or laparoscopic method under anaesthesia.

Magnifying lens over an exclamation markSpot an error in this article? A typo maybe? Or an incorrect source? Let us know!

Veena Sewlikar
Dr Veena Sewlikar, MS [Gen Surg.], FICS, FAIS, is a full-time general and laparoscopic surgeon at Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital, Mumbai.


  1. my husband is having painless lump near his belly button. how should it be treated without surgery?age 50yrs weight 75kg


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