A hernia occurs when part of an organ pushes through a weak point in the wall of the body cavity that normally holds it. Hernias can develop in many areas of the body, but abdominal hernias are the most common type. In this type of hernia, part of the abdominal tissue protrudes through a weak area of the abdominal wall. Although most abdominal hernias are not life-threatening, one type can be — a strangulated hernia. This type of hernia, in which the bulge is constricted so that the blood supply to the area is cut off, constitutes a medical emergency that requires immediate surgery.
In an abdominal hernia, the resulting protrusion or bulge can be categorized as either irreducible or reducible. Reducible bulges can be pushed back into the abdomen, but irreducible protrusions cannot. A strangulated hernia involves an irreducible bulge that is tightly squeezed or constricted. This produces a blockage that cuts off the blood supply to a section of the intestine, causing it to die quickly. Bleeding and septicemia also can occur, and if the condition is left untreated, gangrene can develop within a matter of hours.
Possible symptoms of a strangulated hernia include severe pain, redness and tenderness in the hernia region. Other accompanying symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, fever and an overall feeling of poor health. When a person has a hernia and experiences any of these symptoms, it is important for him or her to seek immediate medical attention. A healthcare professional can examine the area, diagnose the condition and make the appropriate recommendations. This can be a serious medical condition that requires immediate surgical repair.
Some different types of abdominal hernias include umbilical hernias, epigastric hernias, incisional hernias, inguinal hernias and femoral hernias. A femoral hernia is a type of abdominal hernia that can develop between the lower abdomen and the thigh region. This type of hernia is more likely to develop in women than in men and has a higher chance of becoming constricted and strangulated than most other types of hernias. Nonetheless, any abdominal hernia can develop into a strangulated hernia if it is irreducible and constricted.
Another type of hernia, called a hiatal hernia, also can develop into a strangulated hernia. Hiatal hernias occur in the aperture of the diaphragm where the esophagus joins the stomach. The symptoms of a strangulated hiatal hernia include difficulty swallowing and extreme chest pain. This condition also must be corrected immediately via surgery.
Even though most hernias might not present any immediate problems, they will get bigger over time. If left untreated, a hernia can develop into a strangulated hernia. It is important for anyone who has a hernia to consult a doctor and seek treatment to avoid any complications.