By Eileen McNichols MSN., RN., Director community Health and Pastoral Care Services
A hernia occurs when the tissue inside a body cavity bulges through a weakness in the surrounding muscle. Hernias may have no symptoms or they may cause bulging with or without mild to severe pain. The pain can occur at rest or be associated with certain movements. All hernias have the potential to become strangulated, which means that the blood flow is cut off to the tissue or organ that is protruding through the weakened muscle. When this happens, the affected tissue will die unless the strangulation is relieved.
Symptoms of a strangulated hernia include nausea, vomiting, fever, sudden pain that gets worse quickly, a hernia bulge that turns red or purple in color, or an inability to pass gas or have a bowel movement. This is a medical emergency that requires surgical intervention.
The most common types of hernia are inguinal, umbilical and incisional. An inguinal hernia presents as a bulge in the area on either side of your pubic bone and is much more common in men. It usually becomes more obvious when you are standing and you cough or strain. There may be an aching or burning sensation at the bulge. The contents of the abdomen bulge through a weakness in the lower abdominal wall or groin muscles.
Umbilical hernias cause a bulge or swelling in the naval or belly button. They are most common in babies but can also occur in adulthood. These hernias are usually painless in babies but can cause severe pain if they become strangulated and the blood flow is compromised.
Incisional hernias are found when there is a weakness in the muscle as the result of a previous incision or surgical cut in the abdomen. An incisional hernia can form months or even years after surgery. Symptoms include bulging and pain at the site of the previous surgery.
Although many hernias occur without a specific cause, common risk factors for hernias include: Being overweight, smoking, constipation, heavy lifting and pregnancy. As with all health challenges, there are some risk factors over which we have no control such as family health history or being born prematurely. It is important to manage the factors that can be controlled by maintaining a healthy a weight and not smoking.
Little Company of Mary Hospital now offers a hernia screening with Justin Sobinsky, MD, general surgeon with special certification in minimally invasive hernia repair. For more information and to register for this free ten-minute consultation, call 708-423- 5774.
Little Company of Mary Hospital, 2800 W. 95th St. Info/registration: 708-423-5774
CHEER brings the lilt of Irish laughter to St. Paddy’s Day to “Tidbits from Tipperary” with humorist and educator Maureen Connolly, Wed., Mar. 14, 11 a.m. Little Company of Mary Hospital. North Pavilion Link. Free
Thyroid Screenings, Mon. through Thurs., three LCMH locations, includes lab test to measure level of hormone in the blood stream and other thyroid testing if TSH level is abnormal. No fasting or doctor’s order needed. Appointment required. Fee: $20 (value $100).
Wake Up Call, one-hour comprehensive screening for heart attack and stroke, Sat., Mar. 24, 7:30 to 11 a.m. Includes labs, ultrasounds of abdominal aorta and carotid arteries, heart rhythm screening for A fib and more. No doctor’s order needed. Registration required. Fee: $155 (value $4,500).