Preventing Hernias

Many cases of hernias can be prevented. A person who develops a hernia may be born with a defect or weak spot in the abdominal wall, or an inguinal canal that is not closed as much as it should be. This is a congenital defect that can not be prevented or changed non-surgically, but there are a few steps that one can take to prevent hernias from developing. The key to hernia prevention is to take steps to decrease the amount and duration of pressure on the abdominal contents.

Hiatal or epigastric hernias, hernias that occur when the stomach pushes up through the hole in the diaphragm where the esophagus goes through, are not as easy to detect as other types of hernias because they are entirely internal. Moreover, many hiatal hernias that are small do not cause any symptoms. If you are overweight, you are more at risk for developing a hiatal hernia. Losing weight is the best way to prevent hiatal hernias from occurring.

The risk of developing an inguinal hernia or femoral hernia can be decreased by reducing the pressure inside of the abdominal cavity that may push the abdominal contents out of a weak spot in the abdominal wall. These types of hernias are similar, as they are both hernias that come out of the lower abdominal wall, and the same prevention tips apply equally to both. Prevention of inguinal and femoral hernias can be summarized as follows: lift properly, reduce straining, quit smoking and lose weight.

The key to lifting something heavy is to keep your spine straight and use your leg muscles to provide the lifting power. If you bend your back when lifting, you are not only placing yourself at risk for back injuries like painful pulled muscles, but you may also be increasing your risk of developing a hernia as well. It may be helpful to stretch before lifting something heavy so that you are less likely to pull a muscle. Also, avoid lifting something alone that is too heavy for one person to lift.

Another cause of high abdominal pressure that can exacerbate hernia formation is constipation. If you are chronically constipated, try increasing the amount of fiber in your diet and drinking plenty of fluids. If it is still a problem, tell your doctor. There are over-the-counter laxatives to help with constipation, but if it is a chronic problem, it is worth getting it checked out. A man who has difficulty urinating and has to strain to urinate may have an enlarged prostate gland. An enlarged prostate is usually a benign condition, but medications are available to treat the prostate swelling and make urination easier.

People who smoke are advised to quit smoking for many medical reasons, but a smoker with a chronic cough is also increasing their risk of developing a hernia. Lastly, being overweight is a risk factor for developing hernias. Losing weight may help decrease your chance of developing an inguinal or femoral hernia.

Umbilical hernias in newborns are a congenital defect and can not be prevented because the child is born with this problem. These hernias often heal on their own within a few years’ time, but if they don’t heal by the time that a child is five years old, hernia repair surgery may be required. Umbilical hernias in adults, however, can be prevented through the same prevention tips outlined above for inguinal and femoral hernias: use proper lifting techniques, treat constipation, quit smoking and lose weight if you are overweight.

The hernia prevention techniques outlined above also apply to preventing recurrence of hernias after hernia surgery or other types of pelvic or abdominal surgery. A hernia that occurs through a surgical scar is called an incisional hernia. It is particularly important to avoid heavy lifting and straining after any kind of abdominal or pelvic surgery to prevent an incisional hernia, and to wait before your doctor says it is okay to resume work, exercise and other physical activities after having surgery. It should be noted that before a person has hernia surgery for an inguinal or femoral hernia, they may be instructed to wear a special belt called a truss that keeps a hernia in place temporarily. These devices are not useful for preventing hernia complications, such as hernia incarceration and bowel obstruction, on a long-term basis.


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