Anyone can get a hernia. This applies to men and women, young and old. People who have a weakening in the muscles from birth are more likely to get a hernia. Heavy lifting and heavy activity can put an excessive amount of strain on the muscles and supportive tissues of the abdominal wall increasing the chances of developing a hernia. Although proper lifting techniques can help reduce herniasy from forming, nothing can absolutely prevent a hernia from occurring.
The most common locations for hernias are in the groins (inguinal), and at the belly button (umbilical). This is because the muscles in these two areas are already the thinnest and under the most stress during activities. Hernias can form in other locations such as the ventral region, the epigastric region, and through prior surgery sites.
Each hernia is different, and the symptoms of a hernia can appear gradually or suddenly. Different people feel varying degrees of pain. Some people even feel that something has ruptured or given way. Other symptoms may include:
There really is no guaranteed way to prevent getting a hernia or to prevent recurrence of a hernia. Some hernias are due to a congenital condition. The best thing you can do is stay healthy by eating right, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising regularly.
Many hernias begin as a congenital defect, a weakness in the abdominal wall that a person is born with. If you have a weak point in a muscle wall, pressure from extra body weight, coughing, heavy lifting, or from straining during bowel movements can force the muscle apart, allowing part of an internal organ (or some other part of the body) to push its way through. Once that happens, the defect (hernia) will continue to enlarge until it is repaired.
You may have heard that hernias are caused by heavy lifting, but that is a myth. While heavy lifting and other strenuous activities can aggravate a hernia, they don't actually cause them. Most hernias are the result of a weakness in a muscle that exists long before a hernia even appears. Many hernias are present at birth. Other factors, including advancing age, injury, and surgical incisions can help weaken muscles too.
Chronic coughing from the lung irritation caused by smoking can put you at increased risk for a hernia. It can also cause a hernia to recur. Heavy smokers also tend to develop abdominal hernias at a higher rate than non-smokers. That's because exposure to nicotine can help weaken the abdominal wall.
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