Most common in the groin area (inguinal), a hernia can strike almost anyone - old or young, fit or out of shape. Quite simply, a hernia occurs when there is a weakness in the abdominal wall, and the wall tears - part of the intestine then bulges through, appearing as a lump under the skin.
What causes a hernia? Almost anything that raises the pressure within the abdominal cavity. This can include heavy lifting (weights, boxes, children), straining on the toilet, and sometimes vigorous exercise.
Sometimes there is a weakness from birth, at other times a particular strain can cause the onset. However, quite frequently there is no clear precipitating event.
Symptoms vary - you may experience pain, or the feeling of something giving way, or else just notice that a lump has appeared. This doesn't usually hurt, although it may get bigger when you cough.
In most cases hernias you'll experience little pain, just some mild discomfort. The concern is that it might strangulate - this is where the protruding intestine gets pinched and loses its blood supply - in this case, an emergency operation is required.
This can condition can be easily repaired - over 100,000 of these operations are performed by the NHS each year, and in some cases you can go home the same day.