The term hernia is most commonly used to describe a condition of the abdominal wall where a weakness develops and allows internal tissues to protrude through. These weaknesses (or defects) tend to occur where there is a natural break in the wall to enable other important structure to pass through.
Hernias are very common and are named in relation to their location. In the groin, they are referred to as inguinal or femoral, and they can occur on either the left or right side of the body or even both at the same time. Other areas are in and around the belly-button (umbilical, para-umbilical), upper abdomen (ventral, epigastric), sides and flank (Spigellian, lumbar). Hernias may occur in relation to a previous operative scar which can weaken the abdominal wall (incisional).
Hiatus hernia is a special kind of internal hernia where part of the stomach moves up into the chest.
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The most common complaint relating to hernia is the presence of a lump, usually associated with pain or discomfort. They are usually made worse by standing, straining, coughing and sneezing, (all these actions increase pressure in the abdomen) but can improve on lying flat and relaxing. Hernias interfere with normal physical activities, either for work or recreation.
Hernias can get stuck (incarcerated) hernia and this is a potentially serious situation which may require emergency surgery as the trapped bowel may lose its blood supply (strangulated).
Hiatus hernias are associated with reflux-like symptoms.