A hernia – and there are several different types depending on where they're located – is the protrusion of an organ or fatty tissue through a weak spot in the muscle or tissue that should be containing it, such as the abdominal wall. Hernias can have a number of different causes, and aren't strictly the result of lifting heavy objects. While everyone is susceptible to a hernia – men, women, children, and even infants – men tend to be more prone to the condition.

Many hernia sufferers report feeling a "pop" or as though "something let go" as their first indication that they might have a hernia. Other patients may notice a lump or protrusion in the abdomen or groin – areas where hernias occur frequently.

"Unfortunately, a hernia will not go away or heal itself without surgical intervention," explains Dr. Amanda Reese. "In addition to becoming increasingly painful, a hernia can also become life–threatening. It's a condition that needs to be diagnosed and treated. Thankfully, there are several highly successful surgical options."

Those options include open surgery to repair the site of the hernia, surgery to install mesh that repairs and strengthens the weakened area, or minimally invasive (laparoscopic) surgery using thin instruments inserted through small incisions. One of those instruments features a tiny video camera providing images from inside the body projected onto operating room screens. Benefits of minimally–invasive or robotic surgery include smaller scars, less pain and a faster recovery, which usually translates to a quicker return to daily activities.

If you or a loved one notice a lump or bulge – particularly in the abdomen or groin area – make an appointment with a physician experienced in diagnosing and treating hernias.