Causes of Hernias

The causes of hernias are many and varied. Age, general health, congenital disorders, lifestyle choices and more can all affect the incidence of a hernia. The common thread however is that they are caused by weakness of or strain on the fascia, or protective covering, of the abdominal wall. Hernias are progressive, meaning once they form, no matter how small or painless, they will only get worse. Below are some of the most common causes of hernias.

Causes of an Inguinal (Groin) Hernia

Inguinal, or groin, hernias are by far the most common hernia conditions in the United States. An inguinal hernia can develop as a result of two factors – weakness in the abdomen and excessive strain on that weak point, caused by one or more of the following:

  • Heavy lifting
  • Straining on the toilet
  • Obesity
  • A strong sneeze or cough
  • Other activities that put strain on the abdomen

The fact is that any pressure placed on the abdominal wall can cause a hernia. Bodybuilders lifting hundreds of pounds or even mothers lifting their child can all develop a hernia. Conversely, some people will never develop a hernia no matter what strain they place on their body.

Some men will be predisposed to an inguinal hernia from birth. This is usually a result of weakness in the abdomen where the testicles descended through the abdomen and into the scrotum at birth (known as the testicular canal). While it is not always practical or necessary to determine whether or not the hernia is congenital, these inguinal hernias commonly appear in early childhood through to mid-life.

The vast majority of inguinal hernia patients are male, mostly because of, genetics, their lifestyles and work choices. Further, the uterus acts as a protective shield from inguinal hernias in women.

Causes of an Incisional Hernia

Incisional hernias can occur as a result of the weakening of the abdominal wall due to a surgical incision. Many open and even laparoscopic abdominal procedures will inherently weaken the abdominal wall. The point of incision, whether small or large, represents a possible exit point for internal organs. While surgery is not a guarantee that a hernia will form, it does represent a higher risk. Of course, there is not much one can do to prevent this other than to keep abdominal pressure to a minimum. However, the minimization of incisional hernias is one reason to choose a laparoscopic abdominal procedure.

Causes of an Umbilical Hernia

Umbilical hernias occur around the belly button as a result of the weakened nature of the abdominal wall in that area. This is not an individual problem, but one that affects every human being from birth. Umbilical hernias can be exacerbated by pressure in the area. Common causes include obesity and pregnancy, both of which place added pressure on the abdominal wall near the umbilicus.

Other Causes of Hernias

There are several inherently weak points in the abdomen, at which a hernia can develop. Age is a factor in hernia development as muscle begins to weaken as we get older. Lifestyle situations including smoking and obesity can also increase the chance of hernia development. Some hernias may even be caused by congenital problems that cannot be avoided. This is especially true for men and inguinal hernias. Indeed, those with family members that had a hernia are predisposed to hernia development themselves.

Further Reading

Learn more about the signs and symptoms of hernias

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