Hernias generally occur when an organ or a tissue pushes and tears through the muscle that holds it in place. They are not life-threatening. However, they need medical intervention as they don’t go away on their own. In a worst-case scenario, hernias may require surgery to prevent serious complications.
Not all hernias are preventable. Factors such as prior abdominal surgery or muscle weakness can increase your risk of having a hernia.
However, inguinal hernias, the most common form to occur, are preventable. Inguinal hernias are caused when a section of the intestine pushes through a muscle in the groin area due to muscle weakness, pressure from the abdomen, or both. While not much can be done to prevent muscle weakness, one can reduce pressure on the abdomen, and thus reduce the risk of incurring such a hernia.
Here are a few ways to prevent inguinal hernias in men.
- Maintain a healthy body weight: When you are overweight, you are at risk of incurring a hernia because your extra body fat can put pressure on your abdomen. Exercise can help reduce weight. However, consult your doctor on what exercise best suits you as certain exercises can be risky. Exercises like yoga, lifting light weights, cycling, and pilates are generally considered safe.
- Be careful while exercising: Certain exercises, like squats, can put undue strain on your abdominal wall. It is thus best to avoid doing them. Additionally, fast movements or high-intensity workouts can also increase your risk of developing a hernia. If you’re exploring a new type of workout, it is recommended that you run it past your doctor.
- Avoid lifting heavy weights: Again, lifting heavy weights puts unneeded pressure on your abdominal muscles. If you must lift something heavy, consider bending down with your knees rather than directly lifting the object from your waist up, so that the weight is distributed. If an object is too heavy to be lifted comfortably, avoid lifting it.
- Eat fibre-rich foods: Constipation can put undue strain on your abdomen during bowel movements and thus increase your hernia risk. Eating fibrous foods, such as whole grains, fresh fruit (bananas, apples, oranges), vegetables, and nuts can help ease regular bowel movements. Further, staying well hydrated is essential to preventing constipation.
- Check if you have an enlarged prostate: When you have an enlarged prostate, you will feel the need to urinate frequently and urgently. You may have difficulty starting urination or may feel like your bladder isn’t completely empty even after you have just urinated. All of this can increase pressure on the abdomen by causing strain during urination. Most men tend to develop an enlarged prostate as they age. Try not to strain during bowel movements or while urinating to decrease your chances of a hernia.
- Immediately treat persistent coughing or sneezing: Needless to say, coughing and sneezing can both put pressure on the abdomen. It is thus advisable to immediately see a doctor if you are coughing or sneezing consistently due to allergies or any other infection. It is recommended that you avoid smoking as it can lead to coughing.
If left untreated, the organ or tissue affected by hernia can get trapped behind the muscle and lose blood flow. This is called strangulation and can lead the tissue to die or become infected, causing serious complications within the body. Therefore, get medical help immediately if you suspect a hernia. Symptoms of a hernia include sudden, severe pain in the abdominal area, vomiting, and constipation. Hernias can also cause swelling and pain in the area surrounding where they occur.
Staying aware of your symptoms is crucial to identifying and treating a hernia on time. Keep in mind that hernias do not go away on their own and will need medical attention.