Each year, approximately five million Americans will experience a hernia and less than one million of those affected will receive treatment. In this article, Whalen Clark, M.D., a colorectal surgeon in Tampa, goes over the common signs and symptoms of a hernia so that you may receive surgical hernia repair and return to the activities you enjoy.
Abdominal Swelling or Bulge
When you think of a hernia, you probably think of a large, visible bulge or swelling in the abdominal area. This is one of the most common, well-known signs of a hernia as part of an internal organ physically protrudes outside of its normal cavity, through the muscle, and pushes out through the skin. Sometimes the bump will only be visible when you strain, such as when you laugh, cough, or lift a heavy object.
However, it is equally important to consider the appearance of the surrounding area. As your body attempts to heal the damaged muscle, white blood cells and fluid will move into the injured area and cause swelling. Therefore, you can expect the abdominal bulge to become larger and more tender to the touch over time.
Muscle Pain and Weakness
Pain or discomfort in your muscles as well as muscle weakness can be symptoms of a hernia, even if you don’t experience abdominal swelling. You may experience sharp, sudden pain as the muscle rips or tears following a straining activity like trying to lift something heavy, and the organ is allowed to push through. In addition to initial muscle pain, you are likely to experience continuous, gradual weakness as your movement and strength are greatly restricted.
This can affect your ability to perform a range of movements, including everything from sitting up or bending over to lifting heavy objects or coughing. Even maintaining an upright posture may become increasingly difficult due to the hernia’s effect on your back muscles. It’s not unusual to experience tightness in your abdomen or groin as well.
Loss of Appetite, Fever, and Vomiting
Loss of appetite is a symptom of a hernia that relates back to the body’s attempt to heal itself following injury. After the muscle has become damaged, the body will begin to direct more blood and oxygen to the affected area and reduce appetite. Furthermore, inguinal hernias may actually exert pressure on the intestines causing the stomach to shrink in size.
A similar effect occurs when a different type of hernia, or incarcerated hernias, gets trapped within the abdominal walls, resulting in the blood supply being cut off to an internal organ. Depending on which organ the hernia is impacting, this could lead to a wide variety of symptoms, including vomiting, nausea, and fever.
Reflux and Difficulty Breathing
Acid reflux is one of the early signs of a hernia that typically goes unnoticed or ignored. Although acid reflux can be attributed to a variety of causes, it can occur in the case of a hernia when the stomach protrudes upwards, causing food to travel the wrong way up the esophagus. Increased pressure in the abdominal cavity, rather than the chest cavity, can cause inflammation of the esophagus and lead to further symptoms, such as heartburn and water brash.
Just as pressure exerted on the intestines causes difficulty with digestion and acid reflux, pressure exerted by the hernia on the lungs can lead to difficulty breathing when engaging in activities like exercising or simply climbing up a flight of stairs. The intense pain that accompanies a hernia can also lead to difficulty breathing as well. If you believe you are experiencing any of the symptoms previously mentioned in this article, it is time to consult with Dr. Whalen Clark, a colorectal surgeon in Tampa.
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