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What Is a Hernia?

Hernias are very common. Each year roughly 5 million Americans experience a hernia, and over one million hernia repair surgeries are performed.1,2 Understanding what is actually happening in the body and your treatment options can help you make decisions for your hernia care.

A hernia occurs when internal organs or tissue break through a layer of muscle or tissues that are meant to contain them. This occurs as a result of a weak spot forming in the containing muscle or tissue, which can be caused by a number of common factors. 

People who have a hernia typically notice swelling or a bulge at the site of the hernia. Hernias can develop in a number of different regions of the body, including the belly area, groin, chest, and sites of previous surgical incisions.1,2

Potential Causes and Risk Factors for Hernias

Anything that may lead to increased intra-abdominal pressure or the weakening of abdominal muscles can lead to a hernia.

Some of the most common risk factors are:

Family History of Hernia³

Some people have a genetic predisposition for weaker connective tissue than the general population, leading to a higher likelihood of hernia development.

Male Sex⁴

Approximately 25% of all males will develop an inguinal hernia during their lifetimes, compared to 2% of all women.⁴


Obesity creates more pressure in the abdomen. As pressure increases, so does the risk of hernia formation, particularly if a previous abdominal surgery has taken place.


Pregnancy, particularly undergoing labor, increases pressure throughout the body and in the abdomen. Women who have undergone labor are more likely to have hernias than those who have not.


Repetitive weightlifting exercises or jobs that require frequent lifting of heavy materials can increase pressure in the abdomen. Over time, these activities can lead to hernia formation.

Chronic Lung Infections or Coughing³,⁶

Coughing increases pressure in the abdomen. The presence of a persistent cough over long periods of time from illnesses like COPD can lead to hernia formation.


A history of smoking can lead to increased likelihood of developing inguinal or incisional hernias.

Types of Hernias

There are five common types of hernias. Understanding the causes and locations for each may help identify a hernia.³

Hernias don't heal on their own.
Understanding your treatment options is the first step to recovery.

As a patient, you have multiple treatment options. Learn more about your mesh options so that you can discuss them with your physician.

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