'Miss' Diagnosed: Hernias and Women

February 15, 2012 9:46:22 AM PST
It's a condition you probably associate with men, but women can suffer from hernias, too.

WHAT IS A HERNIA? A hernia is usually a sac formed by the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneum). The sac comes through a hole or weak area in the fascia, the strong layer of the abdominal wall that surrounds the muscle. A hernia occurs when the contents of a body cavity bulge out of the area where they are normally contained. These contents, usually portions of intestine or abdominal fatty tissue, are enclosed in the thin membrane that naturally lines the inside of the cavity. Hernias by themselves may be asymptomatic (produce no symptoms) or cause slight to severe pain. Femoral hernia is the most common form of hernia found in women; it appears as a bulge in the upper thigh. SOURCE: (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth);(www.emedicinehealth.com)

WOMEN AND HERNIA: There are various types of hernias, based on where they occur. Femoral. Inguinal, ventral and umbilical are all types of hernias that can affect women. Women are most likely to suffer from femoral hernias. This pain is particularly noticeable when bending or lifting heavy objects and pressure is applied. A tender lump may develop in the area where the hernia has developed.

Some abdominal hernias are present at birth, others develop later in life. Any condition that increases the pressure of the abdominal cavity may contribute to the formation or worsening of a hernia, such as obesity, heavy lifting, coughing, straining during a bowel movement or urination, chronic lung disease, and fluid in the abdominal cavity. SOURCE: (www.emedicinehealth.com)

SYMPTOMS: Signs of a hernia can range from noticing a painless lump to the severely painful, tender, swollen protrusion of tissue that is unable to push back into the abdomen (an incarcerated strangulated hernia). With femoral hernia there may be some groin discomfort that may worsen when the woman stands, lifts heavy objects, or strains. Sometimes, the first symptoms are abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. SOURCE: (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth); (www.emedicinehealth.com)

TREATMENT: The best method to treat a hernia is surgery. Hernias grow, and they usually do not go away on their own. Surgery will relieve discomfort. Also, if the hernia is not treated, there is a risk of tissue getting stuck or trapped in the weak area (called incarceration). This tissue may die off if it remains incarcerated for too long. Often, a piece of plastic mesh is surgically placed to repair the defect in the abdominal wall. SOURCE: (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth)

PREVENTION: Steering clear of putting too much pressure on the abdominal wall may help to prevent hernias. Ways to this are: losing weight; eating more fiber and drinking adequate amounts of fluids to limit constipations; and using proper lifting techniques when picking up objects.

? For More Information, Contact:

Simi Singer
Senior Media Specialist
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (310) 423-7798