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Summer Body Guide to Hernias

by Anya Mayr

Why do they happen, and how can I fix them?

Surgical mesh is positioned in the tissue
to reinforce the area affected by the hernia

Summer is finally here, and your love for Florida beaches is more evident than ever as you migrate towards the coast in an effort to try and escape the swampy Gainesville weather and catch some waves. But while the breeze feels refreshing and the sugary white sand between your toes feels like you’re walking on a cloud, there’s a weird little bulge that’s keeping you from taking off your t-shirt and enjoying the summer sun. Maybe it just showed up one day, or maybe you felt a pop when you added the extra 20 pounds to your gym reps in preparation for the season. Either way, that new little lump is more common than you think!

A hernia occurs when an internal organ or tissue bulges through an abnormal opening. While hernias can occur in other sites of the body, they are more commonly found in the abdomen, upper thigh, belly button and groin areas. Symptoms include the bulging in an unusual manner, bloating, swelling, redness, and pain, with the most prevalent symptom being discomfort, especially after standing or strenuous physical activity.

By now you may be wondering, “Why does this happen, and how can I fix it?” According to Dr. Jeffrey Rose, General Surgeon at the Surgical Group of Gainesville and Assistant Program Director for the General Surgery Program at North Florida Regional Medical Center’s Graduate Medical Education, hernias can occur for a number of different reasons.

“While there are some risk factors like smoking, obesity, heavy manual labor and constant straining that can contribute to the development of a hernia, there are also genetic factors like connective tissue disorder or a history of hernias in the family that could predispose patients as well,” explains Dr. Rose.

Some hernias are less severe than others and many times patients who choose to live with hernias aren’t bothered by them. That being said, hernias can range from asymptomatic (showing no symptoms) to immeasurable pain. Left untreated, certain hernias can lead to more alarming issues like intestinal blockages and even gangrene.

The good news is that hernias can be fixed with a simple outpatient surgery. At North Florida Regional Medical Center, surgeons are able to perform different types of surgeries depending on the patient’s condition and preference. Among these are the mesh repair approach, in which a piece of mesh is positioned in the tissue to reinforce the area and fixed in place with sutures or staples. A laparoscopic approach is also offered as an alternative, in which surgeons insert special instruments via small incisions in the abdomen and are able to visualize and perform the procedure a bit less invasively. Both surgeries only take a couple of hours to perform and will have you back to normal in just a couple of weeks.

While there are a limited amount of things that you can do to prevent them, mitigating your risk factors is definitely a good way to avoid hernias. “Leading a healthy lifestyle and avoiding heavy straining can reduce your risk significantly,” says Dr. Rose, and for those who are genetically predisposed, don’t let your fear of surgery come between you and your summer sunshine fun! If you believe that you are at risk for a hernia, consult your primary care doctor. If you are experiencing symptoms of a hernia and burdened with extreme pain, it is recommended that you visit the emergency room immediately.

For more information or to find a physician that can help, please visit NFRMC.com or call 1-800-611-6913.