What you need to know about hernias

So what exactly is a hernia?

MINNEAPOLIS - “Hernias are very common, especially for men,” says Dr. Ryan Carlson, a colorectal surgeon at HealthPartners.

In addition to treating things like colon cancer, Dr. Carlson spends a lot of time fixing hernias too. So what exactly is a hernia?

“It's a hole or a gap in the strength layer of our abdominal wall,” Dr. Carlson says.

Loading ...

He says it usually shows up as a protrusion of the belly button or in the groin. Dr. Carlson says they tend to be genetic and are often painful.

“Usually it's painful when you're standing or when you're lifting or when you're doing something -- you're exerting yourself,” Dr. Carlson says.

But, not every hernia has to be fixed.

“Some hernias are tiny and they don't hurt somebody and they've been stable for 10 years. You should let your doctor know about it,” he says.

For the most part, hernias are just more of an annoyance, but there are times when they need to be taken very seriously.

“The most dangerous thing a hernia can do is, if the hernia is big enough, to allow the intestine to go through there,” says Dr. Carlson.

He says that will usually cause extreme pain and you should see a doctor right way because it can cause part of the intestine to die if it gets kinked.

Surgery for an average hernia, if you choose to get it fixed, is usually a same-day procedure. Dr. Carlson says you may have to miss some time at work while you heal.