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A hernia develops when an internal part of the body, such as the bowel, protrudes through a weak point or tear in the muscle or surrounding tissue. A hernia is caused either by the weakening of this surrounding boundary wall, or by an excess of pressure in the compartment of the residing organ. There are many different types of hernia, and three of the most common are the inguinal, hiatus, and umbilical varieties.

An inguinal hernia develops when part of the bowel slides through a weak spot in the surrounding muscle wall, and moves into the groin area. This is by far the most common type of hernia, accounting for over 70% of cases. More details on the inguinal hernias.

A hiatus hernia is where part of the stomach bulges through the the point of your diaphragm at which the oesophagus passes through. Some hernias of this type can be managed without surgery but others require an operation to prevent more serious conditions from developing. More details on hiatus hernias.

An umbilical hernia develops when part of the bowel slides through a weak spot in the muscle wall, and into the area of the belly button. Umbilical hernias are most common in babies and young children but can also affect adults of all ages. More details on umbilical hernias.

The main symptom of a hernia is the development of an unusual lump which usually can be pushed back into the body. This symptom typically gets worse when you stand up or apply abdominal pressure. Prior to the appearance of this bulge, many patients will experience mild to moderate pain in the area affected. More information on the possible symptoms of a hernia .

The symptoms of a hernia can often be addressed effectively through medication or diet and lifestyle changes. Special garments can also be worn to help hold the hernia in place. However, the only way to fully repair a hernia is with surgery. More details on hernia repair.

Most hernia operations are fairly routine, and should pose no problems for the surgeon or the patient. Operations will be carried through open surgery or by keyhole surgery. Although most surgical procedures are successful, a number of patients do find that their hernia reoccurs several years after their operation. More details on what a hernia operation involves.

Risks of surgery
Hernia operations are generally low risk procedures with few cases of serious complications. However, possible side effects can include infection, heavy bleeding, significant scarring, and the development of blood clots. More information on the risks of hernia surgery.

After surgery
Most routine hernia patients will able to return home the same day or the day after their operation. However, you may be required to stay several nights in hospital, until doctors think you are recovering in the right manner. When you do return home after surgery, you must rest and avoid doing too much, too quickly. More details on what to expect after a hernia operation.

Full recovery from a hernia operation takes between seven and fourteen days, but will depend on a number of factors including the patient's age, the severity of the hernia, and the type of procedure carried out. Pain is likely to be mild and should subside after a few days. Heavy lifting and strenuous exercise should be avoided for at least six weeks. More information on the recovery from an operation.

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