What are the Most Common Hernia Causes?

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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2019
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In general, a hernia occurs when a portion of the body pushes through an opening into another portion of the body. However, there are several different kinds of hernias. The most common are inguinal hernias, hiatal hernias, and umbilical hernias. Hernia causes vary, and some kinds of hernias are more sensitive to certain activities than others.

An inguinal hernia most commonly occurs when the intestine pokes through a weak spot or a tear in the lower section of the abdominal wall. As a result of the protrusion, it creates a painful bulge. It is particularly noticeable when the individual with the inguinal hernia coughs, bends over, or lifts an object.

Although inguinal hernia causes can be specific in nature, they can also occur without any cause at all. The most frequent inguinal hernia causes include an increase of pressure inside the abdomen and/or a pre-existing defect or weakness on the abdominal wall. For many individuals, if the abdominal wall is weak, the inguinal hernia will occur at birth because the lining of the abdomen was not formed properly. However, for those individuals who develop an inguinal hernia as an adult, the causes can include:


• Old age
• Strenuous activities – such as lifting
• Continuous and forceful coughing, such as the kind that is associated with smoking
• Chronic constipation
• Pregnancy
• Obesity
• Chronic sneezing

A hiatal hernia typically occurs near the opening to the diaphragm – specifically, where the esophagus attaches to the stomach. When the stomach protrudes through that opening through the diaphragm and into the chest cavity, it causes a hiatal hernia. The medical community is still at odds as to the exact hiatal hernia causes; however, a few thoughts include:

• An injury to the area
• A congenital defect such as weakness in the area or an exceptionally large hiatal opening
• Extreme pressure on the abdomen
• Chronic coughing – for example, the kind associated with smoking
• Chronic vomiting
• Pregnancy
• Straining during bowel movements
• Repeatedly lifting objects that are heavy

An umbilical hernia usually occurs when the umbilical cord protrudes through a weak spot in the stomach muscles. It is usually seen in infants, but it can happen in adults, also. The umbilical hernia causes can include a congenital defect – in most cases, those repair themselves before the child is born. In adults, causes typical stem from too much pressure on the abdomen. The pressure can come from a variety of sources, such as:

• Lifting heavy objects
• Chronic coughing – such as the kind related to smoking
• Multiple pregnancies
• Being overweight
• An overabundance of fluid in the abdominal area

Although the hernia causes are relatively similar, a medical doctor will decide exactly which kind of hernia an individual has. Once the cause of the hernia is determined, prevention is important. For example, if a hernia is caused by being overweight, maintaining a healthy weight will help prevent its return. Some individuals may be told not to lift heavy objects and others may be told to quit smoking.


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Post 1

I didn't realize there were so many different causes for a hernia. I've always associated it only with lifting heavy objects. I've seen my husband suffer from a hernia, and I hope never to get one.

I never would have thought coughing could lead to one. I get a horrible cough associated with allergies -- I hope it never leads to a hernia!

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