A hernia is a weakness in the usually strong abdominal muscle, which allows abdominal contents such as fat or bowel to push out. This leads to a bulge which is usually more prominent when standing up or coughing. Most of the time the bulge will go back in spontaneously, or may require manual pressure. This may lead to discomfort or pain which is worse towards the end of the day. Occasionally, the contents of the hernia may become trapped or ‘incarcerated’. This can be a serious problem if bowel becomes trapped as it may lose its blood supply – it needs to be fixed urgently.
Risk factors for hernias forming include anything which increases the pressure inside the abdomen such as heavy manual labour, smoking, chronic coughing etc.
The most common area for hernia is the groin (Inguinal hernia), but they may also occur elsewhere in the abdomen such as the belly button, or in a poorly healed incision from a previous operation.