Dr. Michael Baah Biney: Living with hernia

A middle-aged porter at one of Ghana’s most famous markets complained of a bulge around his groin that had persisted for more than five years. He stated that it is a transitory phenomenon. After a long day of work, it grows larger.

He’d learned to live with it and can now manipulate it by pressing down firmly on it. He had accepted his fate and told himself that he would live with it for the rest of his life since he linked it to a condition he inherited from his father, a mason who had identical swelling in both his left and right groins till he died.

Hernia is a normal occurrence and can happen anywhere in the body, in men and women alike it is commonly located anywhere from below your ribs to the grown. In Ghana, inguinal hernia (simply put groin hernia) are the most prevalent of all hernia types.

A hernia occurs when an internal organ or the tissues that support and surround it protrude or telescope through a hole in the body. These holes could be normal spaces formed during fetal development that should naturally close before or shortly after birth, however some do not. Some of these holes emerge after surgery. Simply described, a hernia is a swelling anywhere on the body that expands when you cough, sneeze, or urinate forcefully; it usually occurs in the groin, umbilicus (navel), or at the site of an old surgical scar. The hernia’s name or type corresponds to its location.

How do hernias develop (is it a spiritual problem)

We see them in local movies that some individuals had a hernia after a spiritual attack. So we have that pictorial representation of how hernias develops. Scientifically and research have it that for a hernia to develop 2 things must exist concurrently; a precipitating factor and a predisposing factor. For the purposes of this article, we’ll stick to only the precipitating factor because that seems to be the main influencer for hernia occurrence and that a good number of hernia sufferers witnessed it but turned a blind eye to them.­­­­­­­­­

A prolonged, unattended to urinary problem, a condition of untreated chronic cough, heavy manual work(masons, truck pushers and market porters) and weight lifting are some of the few but extremely common predisposing factors. As a rule of thumb, the predisposing factors are widely linked to increases in pressure within the abdomen(intra-abdominal pressure).

This is why a long-standing urinary problem should not be ignored. Struggling to urinate, forking of the urine stream, and abrupt stopping of the urine stream during urinating are all obvious indicators of a long-term urinary problem. If these symptoms last longer than 3 months, it’s time to see a doctor. Cough that persists for more than two months and does not respond to standard cough suppressants should be reported as soon as feasible. Correcting the urinary problem or the longstanding cough reduces the chances of hernia occurring.

Hernia and lifestyle/occupation.

The desire to improve our physical appearance is the rule of the day. Young men are doing everything they can to keep healthy and gain muscle. A word of caution: gradually increase the weight you lift, and always lift with your thigh muscles rather than your abdominal muscles, because improper weight lifting raises intra-abdominal pressure, which can lead to a hernia. Same applies to masons and truck and wheel barrow pushers. Stacking up too much load predisposes them to developing hernia.

Women who have undergone caesarian section or anyone who has undergone abdominal surgery are advised against weight lifting even if it is a short distance because of the likelihood of a hernia forming after a period of time. If you’re coughing before or after an abdominal surgery(within 6months), I entreat you to see the physician as soon possible.

Are there herbs and medications that can help melt a hernia?

There is no medications or herbal preparation as of now that can take away a hernia. To correct a hernia, surgery is done to push the content back to their original position and to close the hole(defect). What the medications or herbal preparations can only do in the case of the hernia is to take away pain that is sometimes an accompanying sign of the hernia; but the absence of pain doesn’t necessarily connote that the hernia has vanished. We hear on our air waves, tv stations and buses that there is this magic wand of a pill swallowed or cream smeared on the swelling that can make the swelling vanish. For now, there is no research or claim that justifies that. There is no such thing like that. There is no drug that can close the defect of hernia(the hole). 

Many atime, people find a way of pushing back the content of the swelling back to reduce the size and because of that have lived with it all their lives not wanting to go for a surgical correction partly because of financial constraints. Do not fall prey to the trap of thinking that the fact that you’re able to push it back means that the swelling can be lived with. Repercussions may follow if the repair delays.

The make up of hernia.

Think of hernia as a small sac with a loop of rope in it. The sac is what we see outwardly as the swelling and the rope in the sac is the abdominal content be it the bowel(stomach, intestines bladder etc), or what is attached to our bowels called omentum.

You’ll agree with me that the loop may become entangled and unable to be moved out of the sac as easily as it once was. You’ll also agree with me that the smaller the sack’s mouth opening, the less likely loops will move out of the sac.

What can go wrong if the hernia is not repaired?

Hernias do not have complications on their own, but the delay in surgical hernia treatment does. Although you may be able to push the contents back for a while, a persistent hernia’s contents may get attached to the inner part of the sac, making it impossible to push them back freely (to reduce). When the intestinal loop becomes knotted, the abdominal contents may lose their blood supply network. This might be fatal.

Do cossets work to treat hernia?

Depending on the size, duration, and preference of the patient, cossets may be useful in the therapy of hernias. Cossets are typically employed temporarily in the therapy of hernias. They are not suggested as a long-term hernia therapy. The hernia is not repaired. Hernia surgery is the sole suggested treatment option.

When to see the surgeon?

Book an appointment as soon as possible if you noticed an expansile mass that enlarges on coughing or sneezing. Even if it is not accompanied by pain. Hernia can occur in children and adults. It is no respecter of age or social status