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Lifting, bending, straining, even laughing can cause a hernia

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Last November I noticed a little discomfort and swelling in my groin area, on one side. At first I thought nothing of it, maybe I was imagining things. Maybe if I ignore it, it will go away, I thought. Well, after several days of discomfort, neither the pain nor the swelling went away.

Next step, I consulted the Internet. I grabbed my handy iPad and typed in hernia. Low and behold, it described the lump and discomfort I was feeling. So, I made an appointment with my primary care doctor, paid the man $75 to have him confirm what I already knew. I had a hernia.

The type of hernia I had is called an inguinal hernia – this occurs when there is a weak spot in the area where the abdomen meets the thigh on both sides. In this weak area, the tissue or intestines push through the groin muscle. This causes a bulge in the groin or scrotum that may sometimes hurt or burn.

It feels like a round lump and can often be pushed back in by hand. The bulge may form over a period of several days, weeks or months. It may also appear suddenly after straining, heavy lifting, coughing, bending, straining, or laughing. A hernia may be painful, however some hernias bulge without pain.

Medical Warning – If you have sudden and severe pain, nausea, or vomiting you must seek immediate medical attention. These are warning signs that a part of your intestine may be trapped in the hernia.

How did this happen? I have no idea. There was not one specific instance that sticks in my memory. My doctor said it could have been from something as simple as coughing. Through research I found that people are more likely to get a hernia if they are overweight or do a lot of lifting, coughing, or straining.  I also learned that hernias are more common in men than women.

My doctor suggested I have surgery to get this corrected as there can be problems if left untreated. So, I asked around, did my research and made an appointment with a surgeon. After the initial consultation, I felt comfortable with my surgeon and scheduled my surgery with Dr. Arroyo at Jupiter Medical Center.

The surgery, I was told, took about an hour. I can’t confirm this as I was sedated and really did not become fully alert until about three hours after the surgery. Then, it was home to the lazy boy recliner, remote control in hand and ice pack on my groin.

The surgery was done with a laparoscope, a fiberoptic instrument. The doctor inserted it into a small incision in my navel and two other small holes a few inches below my navel.

Today, almost two weeks out from the surgery, I feel about 95 percent of how I used to feel. I experienced very little pain after the surgery and took only a few of the pain medications provided.

The key, in my mind, was to not overdo any activities and avoid anything which could result in ripping my stitches open. If you require this surgery, plan on light duty for the first few weeks.

For those of you with a possible hernia, debating whether to have surgery done or not, I can tell you from my experience, that I have no regrets. The only side effect I feel is a little nerve tingling in my left upper thigh, but I was told this is common and will go away in time.

If you have a hernia, it will not heal on its own. The only way to correct a hernia is with surgery.

Keith Murray, a former firefighter EMT, owns The CPR School, a first-aid training company. He provides onboard training for yacht captains and crew and sells and services AEDs. Contact him at 877-6-AED-CPR, 877-623-3277 or www.TheCPRSchool.com. Comments on this column are welcome at editorial@the-triton.com.

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