THE DISABLING DISEASES: HERNIAS

‘Hernia’ is the medical term for a rupture. The word ‘rupture’ is not accurate, since it means ‘tear,’ and nothing is actually torn. What usually happens is that a weak spot develops in the bands of muscle tissue in the abdominal wall, and the intestines begin to bulge through this, forming a soft lump. When the person lies down, the intestines slide back to their proper place, and the bulge usually disappears entirely, especially if the hernia is of fairly recent origin-

Types of hernias

The most common type is the inguinal hernia, which occurs in the groins of males. The weakest spot in the male’s abdominal wall is located in the groin, where the cord leading to the testicles passes. Unfortunately, in some male infants the wall fails to shut tightly around the cord at this spot, leaving it especially weak In later years, a strain, such as lifting a heavy object, may cause the wall to give way suddenly, or constant straining may force it out gradually. The intestine begins to bulge out. At first, this may be hardly noticeable, and there may be little pain. As time passes, the bulge may become as large as, or larger than, a hen’s egg. Hernias may extend downwards into the scrotum, the hag of skin containing the testicles.

Hernias in women are most frequently located on the upper thigh, just below the groin. Hernias in this region arc called femoral hernias. In umbilical hernia, the navel protrudes This type is most common in new babies and is unusual in adults. Among other types of hernias are those that follow operations in which the scar does not heal properly, permitting bulging to occur.

Hernias may be aggravated by coughing, sneezing, or, especially in constipated individuals, straining to pass bowel movements.

Anyone with a hernia should sec a doctor without delay. One reason tor this is that strangulation may develop When this happens, a loop of intestine becomes caught in the bulge, and its blood supply is cut oft. I his results in gangrene of the strangulated loop of bowel, a condition that is as serious as a ruptured appendix It can cause death. If you have an untreated hernia that suddenly becomes painful, see your doctor immediately, or go to the casualty ward of a good general hospital. This is an emergency calling for quick medical help.

Treatment

The best treatment for hernia is an operation to repair the weakness in the muscles responsible for it. This operation is usually minor and quite safe. Even elderly people undergo it without difficulty. No one with a hernia should avoid or delay the operation if it has been recommended. With the modern advances in surgery, almost no reason exists for using a truss or other support. Trusses are inconvenient, frequently uncomfortable, and may add to the injury by enlarging the weak spot. Medical opinion today is opposed to the use of trusses except in unusual circumstances.

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