How is a hernia diagnosed?
Your doctor usually can detect a hernia in a physical exam. He or she also might order tests to further assess your condition and the cause. An ultrasound test uses sound waves to scan your body. A barium X-ray takes images of your digestive area and intestines. A computed tomography (CT) scan also uses X-rays to get pictures. An endoscopy studies your esophagus and stomach using a small camera at the end of a flexible tube.
Can a hernia be prevented or avoided?
You cannot always prevent hernias. Some are caused by genetics that you can’t avoid. A congenital diaphragmatic hernia is a birth defect. You also can be born with weak muscles that make it easier to get a hernia later in life.
You can reduce your chance of getting some types of hernias by:
- Eating smaller meals
- Losing weight if you are obese
- Avoiding or limiting alcohol and tobacco
- Avoiding or limiting certain foods (such as things that are spicy or high in fiber)
- Using proper lifting techniques to prevent strains
Treatment options depend on the type of hernia you have and your state of health. At first, your doctor may suggest monitoring your condition for changes. This may also include making changes to your diet, activity, and habits. Medicines may help lessen hernia symptoms.
If the hernia does not improve or worsens, your doctor will discuss surgery. There are two types of surgical treatment. Laparoscopic surgery is less invasive. Your doctor or a surgeon will make small cuts in the affected area to fix the hernia. Open repair surgery requires a larger cut to make the repair.
As part of the surgery, your doctor might use surgical mesh. This is considered a medical device. The purpose of surgical mesh is to act as a support for your weakened muscle or tissue. Mesh products can be synthetic or made from animal tissue. The surgical mesh comes in two forms. The temporary mesh is one that your body will absorb. It works with your muscles and tissue to strengthen over time. The permanent mesh is meant to provide long-term muscle support.
Living with a hernia
Most types of hernias can be treated and corrected. However, it is common for hernias to come back. In some cases, surgical mesh can help reduce this chance. Talk to your doctor or surgeon about the best treatment option for you and how to prevent recurring hernias.
People who have a congenital diaphragmatic hernia may have other health issues. Talk to your doctor about how to treat and manage these.
Questions to ask your doctor
- Are there exercises I can do to strengthen my muscles and prevent a hernia?
- What is the chance of my hernia coming back?
- My hernia only bothers me from time to time. Do I even need to see a doctor?
The statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and represent the opinions of the authors. The authors are not medical doctors and do not engage directly or indirectly in diagnosing disease, dispensing medical advice, or prescribing the use of any products or services as treatment for sickness or disease. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a qualified medical professional.