What causes hernias?

Is it heavy lifting, or straining to go to the toilet?

No-one really knows the true answer to this question – in medicine we say the cause is ‘multi-factorial’. There are a number of possible reasons, and usually you need two or more of them at a time.  So for instance you may have an inherited or developmental weakness, but you won’t get a hernia unless you also lift a grand piano or push a broken down car.

The hole or defect that the hernia pokes through will have come about in one of two ways.

EITHER through a natural opening that should have closed during the time we develop and has now reopened –

OR a man made (surgeon made!) opening in the abdominal wall that was closed after an operation, and has now opened up (see ‘incisional hernia’).

So examples of the first type – natural holes that have reopened – will be inguinal hernias at the groin and umbilical hernias at the umbilicus or naval.

The second type, through a previous incision, are all called incisional hernias.

If a hernia returns / recurs, in the same place, it is called a recurrent hernia.  So if a previous inguinal hernia repair breaks down, the resulting ‘new’ hernia is called a recurrent inguinal hernia.