Pressure building up and pushing against a weakness or opening in the abdominal muscle can result in a hernia. Sometimes this muscle weakness is present at birth and other times it develops later in life. Smoking, obesity, a poor diet, and a build-up of scar tissue after a surgery can all weaken the muscles, putting a person at a higher risk of herniation.
Several factors can increase the pressure in the abdomen, also increasing the risk of a ventral hernia in people who have a weakened muscle layer, including:
- Lifting heavy objects
- Intense coughing or sneezing
Symptoms and diagnosis
The most obvious symptom of a hernia is a bulge under the skin, however, other symptoms include pain, vomiting, and constipation. The pain associated with a ventral hernia is usually sharp and may only be present, or worsen, during stressful activities such as physical activity, lifting heavy objects, sneezing, or coughing. Vomiting and constipation may also be experienced, depending on the location of the hernia.
Your doctor will examine you to determine if you have a hernia and may ask you to cough, which will cause the hernia to expand and allow them to better feel the protrusion. An ultrasound, CT, or MRI may also be used to help diagnose and pinpoint the location of the hernia.
Ventral hernia treatment
Hernias will not heal on their own, and in fact may worsen over time, so surgery is typically performed to repair the muscle lining. If not repaired, a ventral hernia may become strangulated, where the intestine gets cut off from the blood supply. If this happens, surgery is needed immediately to restore blood flow to the area.
Your doctor will assess the size and location of the hernia as well as potential complications to determine if an open or laparoscopic surgery is most appropriate. An open surgery is where the organ or tissue is pushed back into the cavity and a mesh patch is placed in the abdominal wall to reduce the risk of a recurrence. A laparoscopic surgery is a less invasive approach that uses a tiny camera and smaller incisions.