Hernias occur when tissue pushes through an opening or weakness in the muscle. It can cause pain and discomfort that make regular activities difficult, such as exercising or lifting up your grandkids.
Why Men Are Affected More
Men have a small natural weakness in the groin muscles, making them prone to inguinal hernias, where fatty or intestinal tissue pushes through the abdominal muscles near the groin. In fact, 25% of men develop the condition compared to 2% of women.
Why It’s More Common As You Age
With age, the abdominal wall weakens, upping the likelihood of a hernia. Smoking and a poor diet don’t help. Things that put pressure on the abdomen such as excess belly fat, frequent coughing or sneezing, constipation, and heavy lifting increase the chances. The prostate naturally enlarges over time, and that also puts pressure on the abdomen.
Minimize Your Risk
Maintaining a healthy weight, eating enough fiber, and being careful when lifting heavy objects are all good ways to lower your risk of developing a hernia. However, if your body is predisposed to that, you can’t always avoid it.
Early on, you might feel discomfort or pain where it’s going to form. Over time, you’ll notice a bulge that progresses in size. These symptoms might worsen when you cough or lift something heavy, and you might also experience heartburn, constipation, and a heavy feeling in the abdomen.
When Surgery Is the Answer
Products like pressure garments can minimize discomfort, however, hernias cannot be fixed without surgery. And if the pain is stopping you from enjoying your life, then it’s time.
What To Expect With Surgery
Routine hernia surgery is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure that does not involve significant risks or recovery time. It’s performed under general anesthesia, and patients can expect three small incisions around the belly button. The operation is done laparoscopically, with a thin tube inserted through the small incision. Because the incisions are so small, there is little risk of infection or complications. The procedure takes between 30 minutes to two hours depending on the complexity, and patients almost always go home the same day. Most patients report immediate relief from the symptoms caused by their hernia.
Recovery And Healing
Most patients are up walking around the same day, can perform basic household chores the next day, and can drive after two or three days. I recommend patients rest for about a week, then as long as they feel comfortable, they can return to work if their job doesn’t require a lot of physical activity. Heavy lifting should be avoided for six to eight weeks.
While the outcomes for hernia surgery are very good, any operation can cause anxiety for patients. I always take time to address questions and concerns. I tell them what to expect, in terms of the outcome and the level of pain they’ll experience—and how we’ll control it. With every patient, I think, “What if they were my family member?” I want my patients to be satisfied and be confident in the care I provide.
Dr. Choudhury is a general surgeon at Regional One Health’s East Campus, 6555 Quince Road 901.515.3150, and Outpatient Center, 880 Madison Avenue 901.545.6969.