A hernia can generally be classified by where it occurs in the body.
Inguinal hernias are the most common type of hernia. Inguinal hernias occur when part of the intestines or fatty tissue pokes through a weak point of the fascia and into the inguinal canal. Externally it may be noticed as a bulge above the inner thigh or groin. These types of hernias are most often found in males.
As long as the hernia isn’t growing or causing much pain, then inguinal hernias aren’t that dangerous. However, if the hernia does start to grow in size, it could be a sign of life threatening complications.
Inguinal hernias will not go away on their own and can only be fixed through inguinal hernia repair surgery.
Femoral hernias occur when part of the intestines enters the canal that carries the femoral artery into the upper thigh. This type of hernia is most common in women. Women who are pregnant or obese are especially at risk for developing femoral hernias. Femoral hernias usually appear in the lower groin or at the top of the inner thigh.
On their own, femoral hernias are generally not life threatening. However, if femoral hernias become strangulated, then they will be life threatening. The only way to fix a strangulated femoral hernia is through emergency hernia repair surgery.
This type of hernia occurs when part of the intestines or fatty tissue pokes through the fascia near the belly button, or navel. These hernias are most commonly found in newborns. Fortunately, about 90 percent of cases show the hernia closing naturally before the child turns 5 years old. Externally, an umbilical hernia presents as a noticeable bulge around the belly button.
If no complications occur, then umbilical hernias are not a dangerous condition. However, like other types of hernias, if an umbilical hernia becomes strangulated, trapped, or incarcerated, then it will become life threatening.
Additionally, this type of hernia is more likely to grow in size if left untreated. And the only way to fix an umbilical hernia is through surgery.
Unlike other types of hernias, hiatal ones are usually not visible to the naked eye. That is because these hernias occur when part of the stomach protrudes up into the chest and through the diaphragm. So detection and diagnosis require help from a medical professional.
Hiatal hernias are typically discovered through x-rays, CT scans, upper GI endoscopies, or esophageal manometry. People who smoke, are overweight, or are age 50 or older are more likely to develop a hiatus hernia. Hiatal hernias also tend to cause more symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux.
Thankfully, hiatal hernias are not usually life threatening. However, they do tend to cause long-term acid reflux symptoms, including damage and irritation to the esophagus. It should also be noted that the reflux damage caused by a hiatus hernia can increase the risk of esophageal cancer.
Surgery to fix the hernia usually involves repositioning the upper stomach, strengthening the diaphragm, and even repairing the esophagus. Depending on your goals and overall health, surgical treatments for this type of hernia may be combined with weight loss surgery.
Parastomal hernias develop when the intestines press up and out of a small hole created for a colostomy or ileostomy device. Typically, a parastomal hernia will present as a bulge in the mid-abdomen. Parastomal hernias are the most common side effect of colostomy or ileostomy surgery, but thankfully they are not usually dangerous. But complications can cause more serious problems.
Surgery to repair this type of hernia usually involves closing the current hernia and then creating a new stoma if one is still needed.
Ventral hernias occur anywhere along the abdominal wall. Like other hernias, they occur when tissues inside of the abdominal wall are pressed through a weak spot. Ventral hernias are often identified as incisional hernias because most ventral hernias develop around weak spots from previous abdominal surgeries.
Small ventral hernias are typically not dangerous. But the longer they are left untreated, the greater the risk of complications like organ strangulation and gangrene. These hernias may also begin causing pain and other uncomfortable symptoms the longer they go without repair.
Incisional hernias develop when internal tissues press against a weak spot or a not fully healed incision from abdominal surgery. These hernias can occur anywhere in the abdomen, but only become dangerous in very rare cases. Potential complications include bowel obstructions and organ strangulation.
In order to fix an incisional hernia, a surgeon will need to move the bulging tissue back to its proper place, and then strengthen the tissues and fascia that hold the internal organs in place.