Hidden Hernias

Monday, March 14, 2011 - 7:07am

Common ailment can sometimes be difficult to diagnose.

What if you were told you had fibroids, arranged a surgery, and ended up having a hernia instead?

Although men and women get hernias, women are misdiagnosed far more often because of their anatomy.

Until recently, just walking down the street with a heavy purse was something Laura Sweet couldn't do without a lot of pain.

"It just got to a point where it was chronic and it was constant, and it was a constant burning shooting pinching pain," she says.

The pain was on one side of her pelvis.

She went to doctor after doctor, and each gave her multiple diagnoses.

"Several times they said it was a cyst. Then I was told it was chronic pelvic pain. Then I was told it was endometriosis, or fibroids, or a bladder infection thing," she recalls.

She was prescribed pain killers, anti-inflammatories, and physical therapy, but the pain only got worse.

After more than a year and a half, she was about to give up when she was referred to the hernia specialist Dr. Shirin Towfigh.

"When I opened the door, she was on the exam table in fetal position, just in distress, just crying," says Dr. Shirin Towfigh. "She had severe pain and had been dealing with it for awhile."

Several tests revealed that she had a hernia.

Part of her intestines were bulging out of a tear in her stomach muscles.

Dr. Towfigh says many women who have hernias are often misdiagnosed because of anatomy.

"In women, you have ovaries, you have a uterus, they can have fibroids, they can have endometriosis adhesions, many have had c-sections or other pelvic surgeries. All of that can complicate the diagnosis," she explains.

Some symptoms of a hernia are:

- pain in the groin

- a bulge in the painful area that may or may not come and go

- pain with specific physical activities like getting out of a car or prolonged standing.

Pain relief is not always immediate.

It may take weeks to recover, and those symptoms can come from other things as well of course.

If you have pain that does not get diagnosed, insist on more tests and see a different specialist.

Hernias are not dangerous unless the bulge won't go down, then it can turn life threatening.

Getting it fixed before that happens can save your life.

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