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Hernias are more prevalent than most people think. A hernia is nothing but a gap in the muscular wall of your body - mostly in the abdomen or groin - through which the contents of the abdomen protrude. Studies estimate that about 25% of males and 2% of females develop inguinal hernia worldwide, which is found to be the most common type. About 75% of all hernia cases are also found to be located in the groin region.

Experts pinpoint various reasons as to how a hernia develops. Muscle weakness due to age or diseases or strain from heavy lifting or a previous injury is the usual mechanism leading to the development of a hernia. “There are several factors that could cause a hernia. Sometimes, babies are born with failure of the muscles and fascias to fully develop and come together. This is the case of congenital umbilical hernias that usually close by the time the child is one year old”, notes Dr. Antonio Privitera, one of Dubai’s renowned colorectal surgeons, proctologists and hernia specialist. Most adults develop hernia as a result of injury, constipation, strain due to persistent coughing or sneezing, pregnancy or with age.”

Apart from these, lifestyle factors also play a role in the development of hernias. People who are overweight, smoke, and generally lead an unhealthy lifestyle can weaken their abdominal walls, which leads to the formation of a hernia.

“Smaller hernias, especially umbilical hernia in children and pregnant women may resolve without treatment. However, it is best to get your hernia checked by a specialist to avoid unnecessary complications”, says Dr. Privitera.

So how do you know if you have a hernia? Here are 7 signs to look out for-

- Not all hernias can be felt outside the body. If you feel any discomfort in the groin that worsens when you bend or lift things, it could be a sign of a hernia.

- A bulge in the groin or scrotum is a typical sign of a hernia. Sometimes, it also appears as a swollen scrotum.

- A general feeling of heaviness in the abdomen or groin.

- Painful urination or bowel movement.

- Feeling uncomfortable after standing for a long period.

- Hernias in infants can be observed as a lump in your baby’s groin area while he/she is crying, coughing, or making a bowel movement.

- A strangulated hernia is a serious medical condition that occurs when fatty tissue or a section of the intestine pushes through the weakened abdominal muscle, following which the surrounding muscle clamps down around the protruded tissue, cutting off the blood supply to the bowel. Symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, and severe cramping. If any of these occur, get immediate medical attention.

If you have any of these symptoms, the best advice is to get it checked at the earliest. Most hernias will need surgical treatment as the defect in the abdominal wall can only get bigger with time, and the possibility of blockage or strangulation has to be considered. The use of a truss or special belts, though may offer a feeling of comfort, can produce scarring of the hernia defect, ultimately increasing the chance of complications. 



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