Risk factors and complications associated with hernia
Who is at greater risk?
You may be more susceptible to developing a hernia if:
- You have a chronic cough
- You are a smoker (often linked to a chronic cough)
- You are overweight or obese
- You experience chronic constipation
- You have experienced a hernia before or had a hernia repair (surgery)
- You have a family history of hernias
- You have been diagnosed and treated for cystic fibrosis
- You are 50 years of age or older and are at higher risk for a hiatal hernia and muscle loss in general
- You are pregnant or have had multiple pregnancies
- You are male (this may make you more susceptible to inguinal hernias)
- Infants and premature babies with low birth weights (at higher risk of umbilical hernias)
When hernias develop, they are typically small in size. Size can increase. When this happens, they can become quite painful.
Enlargement can also result in complications of obstruction in the bowel or the intestine becoming trapped in the abdominal wall. Obstructions (also known as an incarcerated hernia) can lead to severe pain, constipation, vomiting and nausea, as well as the inability to pass gas or have a bowel movement. Building pressure in the affected area of the body can also cause damage to nearby tissues, resulting in more pain and swelling.
A trapped intestine is also known as strangulation whereby blood flow is restricted. This in turn can lead to an infection of intestinal tissue (intestinal tissue may begin to ‘die’ – this is also known as gangrene). When this happens, immediate medical care or surgery is necessary as it can be life-threatening.
Complications related to an umbilical hernia are not common. Problems can arise when the protruding abdominal tissue becomes incarcerated (trapped) and is unable to move (or be moved) back into the abdominal cavity. This results in a complication whereby blood supply is reduced, thus causing pain and tissue damage in the navel area. If blood flow is completely restricted, strangulation occurs. Immediate medical intervention (often emergency surgery) is necessary in this instance.