What Are Hernias?

Hernias happen when part of an organ or tissue in the body (such as a loop of intestine) pushes through an opening or weak spot in a muscle wall. It can push into a space where it doesn't belong. This causes a bulge or lump.

How Do Hernias Happen?

Hernias are fairly common in kids. Babies, especially preemies, can be born with them.

Some babies are born with small openings inside the body that will close at some point. Nearby tissues can squeeze into such openings and become hernias. Unlike hernias seen in adults, these areas are not always considered a weakness in the muscle wall, but a normal area that has not yet closed.

Sometimes tissues can squeeze through muscle wall openings that are only meant for arteries or other tissues. In other cases, strains or injuries create a weak spot in the muscle wall. Then, part of a nearby organ can push into the weak spot so that it bulges and becomes a hernia.

Hernia repair is the one of the most common surgeries kids have. It's important to know the signs of a hernia so your child gets the right medical care.

What Are the Types of Hernias?

There are different types of hernias, and each needs different levels of medical care.

Most hernias in kids are either inguinal hernias in the groin area or umbilical hernias in the belly-button area.

Inguinal Hernias

An inguinal hernia happens when part of the intestines pushes through an opening in the lower part of the abdomen called the inguinal (IN-gwuh-nul) canal. Instead of closing tightly, the canal leaves a space for the intestines to slide into.

Doctors fix inguinal hernias with surgery.

Umbilical Hernias

An umbilical hernia happens when part of a child's intestines bulges through the abdominal wall inside the belly button. It shows up as a bump under the belly button. The hernia isn't painful and most don't cause any problems.

Most umbilical (um-BILL-ih-kul) hernias closes up on their own by the time the child turns 4 or 5. If a hernia doesn't go away by then or causes problems, doctors may recommend surgery.

Epigastric Hernias

An epigastric hernia is when part of the intestines pushes through the abdominal muscles between the belly button and the chest.

Many epigastric (eh-pih-GAS-trik) hernias are small, cause no symptoms, and don't need treatment. Larger ones that do cause symptoms won't heal on their own, but surgery can fix the problem.

Other types of hernias — like hiatal hernias, femoral hernias, and incisional hernias — usually happen in older people, not kids.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.

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