What Causes a Hernia?

What Causes a Hernia?

Despite the folklore about heavy lifting being the cause of hernias, the reality is that most hernias are the result of a muscle defect or weakness that exists long before the hernia appears.

What is a hernia?

A hernia is caused by a combination of pressure and an opening or weakness of muscle and fascia (a tough connective tissue that surrounds the muscle).  The muscle or fascia can be weakened by age, injury, or a previous surgical incision.

While not always the direct cause of hernias, heavy lifting or other strenuous activity that put strain on the abdominal wall or increased pressure can cause a hernia. Risk factors include:

  • A chronic cough, such as smoker’s cough
  • Obesity
  • Straining during bowel movements or while urinating
  • Pregnancy
  • Persistent sneezing, such as that caused by allergies

Are there different types of hernias?

Hernias can occur in different areas of the body and some hernias are more common than others.  

Inguinal – most common type of hernia that occurs in or near the groin

Epigastric – occurs above the navel and is caused by a weakness in the upper-middle abdomen

Femoral – occurs in the area between the groin and thigh, usually as a result of strain during pregnancy and childbirth

Umbilical – occurs in the naturally weakened area of the navel where the umbilical cord was once attached

Who gets hernias?

Although hernias are more common in men than in women, they can develop in anyone from young children to older adults.

How do you prevent a hernia?

Ultimately, there is sometimes very little you can do to avoid getting a hernia if there is an existing muscle defect or weakness.  However, there are things you can do to reduce strain on your muscles and tissues, such as:

  • Good nutrition
  • Avoid constipation
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Use proper lifting techniques
  • Do not smoke

What are the treatment options?

Unfortunately, the only method of treatment to repair a hernia is through surgical intervention; however, there are various methods available for hernia repair, also commonly referred to as abdominal wall reconstruction. While surgical methods can vary depending on the type and severity, common interventions include traditional surgical repair, laparoscopic surgery, and mesh repairs.

If you have been diagnosed with a hernia, contact one of our general surgery offices in Newport News or Suffolk to learn more about your options for hernia repair.