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How Many Types of Hernias Are There?


Science and medicine is infamous for categorizing and subcategorizing ailments so as to better diagnose, treat, and hopefully cure a patient. Hernias are no exception to this rule.

While anyone who has ever suffered from a hernia can certainly vouch that it is an incredibly painful affliction, the fact of the matter remains that they are not all created equal, and are further divided by type, usually in reference to where they are anatomically located.

Here are some of the most common types of hernias:

Inguinal Hernias

These are the most common types of hernias, representing two-thirds of all adult hernias. More common in men than women, these hernias are located in a part of the abdominal wall known as the inguinal canal, which is where a man’s testicles descend before birth.

This type of hernia is further divided into two classifications, the indirect inguinal hernia which occurs through the natural weakness of the internal inguinal ring and the direct inguinal hernia which is the result of a weakness in the floor of the inguinal canal. The latter usually affects older men over the age of 40.

Ventral Hernias

This type of hernia occurs in the abdomen at the site of a past surgery and can also be known as a incisional hernia. They can appear weeks, months or even years after a surgery and can range in size from very small to quite large and complex.

Femoral Hernias

This category of hernias falls along inguinal hernias as ‘groin hernias.’ More common in women than men, these hernias usually occur just below the groin crease and are often the result of pregnancy and childbirth.

Umbilical Hernias

Much like the name implies, these types of hernias occur near the bellybutton or navel, as this area has a natural weakness from the blood vessels of the umbilical cord. They can happen to infants at, or just after birth and may be resolved by the time the infant becomes a toddler. However, the area of weakness can persist through a person’s life and has been known to afflict men, women, and children at any time.

Epigastric Hernias

Like many hernias, this type is more common in men than in women. These types commonly occur due to a frailty, gap or breach in the muscles or tendons of the upper abdominal wall between the breastbone and the navel.

Hiatal Hernias

These types of hernia are much different than the other ones mentioned earlier because they are a result of a weakness or opening in the diaphragm – which is the muscle that separates the abdominal cavity from the chest cavity.

Hiatal hernias can result in acid reflux, heartburn, pain and erosion of the esophagus. Surgery for this particular type is much more complicated than others and usually requires a longer hospital stay.

Acquired vs Congenital Hernias

Much like hernias can be classified by the anatomical location of their occurrence, they can also be classified by when they occur.

Acquired hernias are the result of the wear and stress of life, such as childbirth, weight gain and excess muscle strain.

Congenital hernias on the inverse are present from birth and occur at a weak point in the abdominal wall. In the case of children and hernias, it is almost always congenital.

Reducible vs Non-reducible Hernias

Many hernias have a tendency to bulge out of the skin, and these types of classifications simply refer to a doctor’s ability to flatten said bulge.

Non-reducible hernias are typically much more painful than their reducible counterparts because often it can result in a loop of the intestine become trapped causing extreme pain and discomfort.

Hernias that Kill

Although not often thought of in this way, the fact remains that hernias do have the potential to be fatal. Non-reducible hernias may cause intestine or tissue strangulation, which is a leading cause of gangrene.