Ever wondered why Indians suffer more from hernia than from other disorders? Is it genetic predisposition or something else? We decide to take a closer look at this growing problem.
In recent years, we’re come across numerous instances of people suffering fromhernia. In most cases, these people need to be operated on. But what really is hernia? What causes it and is it dangerous?
Recent research by Indian doctors and observations from their own practice, seems to suggest that Indians are the biggest candidates for hernias. It is a growing condition that is affecting thousands of Indians annually.
What is hernia?
A hernia is a condition that occurs when an excess of tissue protrudes from an organ in the body. It is usually seen in the abdomen area, mostly in the lower abdomen region.
The condition is not dangerous and almost never fatal; some people may have ahernia for years and may not even be aware of it. “However, all protrusions of tissues are not hernias,” says Dr Drupal Kulkarni, a Mumbai-based surgeon. “Ahernia occurs when the membrane surrounding an organ are weak and are susceptible to tears or holes. Or it may be caused by a weak muscle wall through which a tissue can poke through,” she says.
Why are Indians at higher risk?
We are still focussed on cardiac disorders and arthritic conditions that merit surgeries, while in reality, the leading cause of surgeries among Indians was and continues to be hernias. This is a trend doctors across the country have observed over the last decade.
A focus study screened 400 people complaining of stomach and abdominal aches and pains in Pune, Mumbai, Satara, Nagpur, Gadchiroli, Kolhapur and Sangli last month. Of these, 350 persons were found to require immediate surgeries for hernia. Dr Shashank Shah, laparoscopic and bariatric surgeon based in Pune, who conducted the study says, “Some of those surveyed had already undergone surgeries for various abdominal ailments and all of the participants had some form of abdominal trouble or another. While we found that 350 of the 400 persons screened were candidates for hernia surgery, the other 50 needed immediate medication.”
An interesting statistic in this connection is that about 30 per cent of all patients who have undergone some form of surgery for a stomach ailment are susceptible to hernia. Some doctors say that invasive surgical procedures that deal with cysts and tumours in the abdominal region may have a bearing on whether the patient may be a candidate forhernia or not.
Furthermore, Indians are genetically prone to weaker muscles and lower muscle mass. “This means that we are susceptible to hernias more than others,” says Dr Shah. “The chances of hernia are 25 per cent more among males; while overall, 10 to 12 per cent of any adult population in the country suffers from some form of hernia trouble.
“Congenital weakness of muscles and age-related deficiencies contribute to hernias. In susceptible persons, we have seen that even a simple activity like straining during urination or while passing stools has caused hernias.” Dr Shah says.
Another reason is longevity. “The longer a person lives, the more he ages, the chances of him or her developing hernias goes up,” Dr Shah explains. “Though we are a young nation, it is also true that we have a huge population of over 75 and over 80 year-olds. Annually, we are seeing a huge rise in the numbers of senior citizens complaining of hernias.”
How does one gauge the risk?
– Normally, anyone who has undergone surgery is a candidate for hernias. “Any scarring or vertical cutting of muscles will cause the problem,” Dr U R Shankar, Delhi-based surgeon says. These people need to be extra-vigilant.
– Some hernias have known to develop in the head region, with increased intracranial pressure. If you suffer blinding headaches or if your migraines have worsened over time, even with medication, see a doctor. In some cases, merely touching the affected spot causes pain.
– Not all hernias cause pain, but any unexplained localised discomfort needs attention. Feel the area carefully for a lump or a hard mass, but do not press too hard.
– A dead giveaway is a protrusion you can see.
– If you experience pain in the lower abs, which you think is radiating down to the legs or lower back, it may be hernia near the spine.
– Pregnant women and those who are prone to weight gain are susceptible to hernias, since the muscles expand periodically and may weaken when stretched.
– Those who lose weight very quickly may be prone to hernias.
– Strenuous exercise is also a factor.