Hernia consists of a disruption in the abdominal wall, through which a peritoneal sac containing a part of intestine can protrude. Hernias can occur at any weak point of the abdominal wall. The most frequent are groin hernias, of which there are two types: inguinal and femoral.
Inguinal hernia is by far the most frequent, especially in males, when femoral hernia is less common and mainly occurs in females. Ventral hernias can occur at the umbilicus or a little bit higher between the sternum and umbilicus; the latter are called epigastric hernias.
Some other rare types of hernias can occur in other weak points of the abdominal wall, such as spiegelian hernia (a little bit higher than inguinal hernia), obturator hernia (lower than inguinal), or lumbar hernia.
The hernia forms a bulge, which protrudes at efforts, at straining or coughing and is easily reduced by simple digital pressure. In most cases a hernia is not really painful, but it is simply the cause of discomfort, tension, or a heavy sensation, principally at effort.
Hernia is not a serious disease, but it may turn out to be invalidating when the symptoms impact work, leisure and daily activities, finally impacting the quality of life.
Hernia continuously tends to increase in size, due to the progressive enlargement of the hernia orifice. The larger the hernia the more difficult the repair. Therefore, waiting too long to be operated is not recommended.
The most serious complication of hernia is strangulation, even though it is not frequent. Strangulation occurs when the intestine is suddenly trapped in the hernia orifice. The blood supply of the trapped intestine is then blocked by the stricture, which can induce devitalization. In this case surgery is required urgently and intestinal resection may be necessary. Consequently, strangulation is a dreadful and life-threatening complication.