A hernia occurs when part of an internal organ bulges through the wall that normally contains it—and most frequently occurs in the lower abdominal cavity. The most common type of hernia is an inguinal hernia, which can be described as a bulge in the pubic area with pain or discomfort in the groin with coughing, bending over, and lifting heavy objects. For men, a hernia may occasionally cause pain and swelling in the scrotum.
Most hernias are the result of extreme pressure in the abdomen with a pre-existing weak spot in the abdominal wall muscle; the pressure pushes an organ, or tissue, through the opening or weak spot. At times, the muscle weakness is present at birth; more often, it occurs later in life.
Anything that causes an increase in pressure in the abdomen can cause a hernia, including:
- Lifting heavy objects without stabilizing the abdominal muscles
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Persistent coughing or sneezing
In addition, obesity, poor nutrition, and smoking, can all weaken muscles and make hernias more likely.
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