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Difference Between Hernia and Ulcer

A hernia is when a part of an organ protrudes through a weakened part of the abdominal wall. An ulcer is a sore that occurs in some area of the digestive tract.

What is Hernia?

Definition:

A hernia is when an organ protrudes through an opening that has formed in the abdominal muscle or connective tissue. Hernias commonly involve the stomach and intestine.

Symptoms:

The most notable symptom of a hernia is a visible swollen area where the hernia is located. The location of the bulge depends on where the hernia is with an umbilical hernia being visible near the umbilicus while an inguinal hernia is a bulge in the inguinal area. A hernia feels uncomfortable and may become painful.

Causes and risk factors:

Hernias can be caused from lifting heavy objects causing strain on the muscles but it can also be a complication of some types of abdominal surgery. People who lift a lot of heavy objects, and people who are very overweight or older are at increased risk of a hernia. Weight lifting and pregnancy are also risk factors for hernias due to the strain placed on the muscles.

Diagnosis:

A hernia is usually easy to diagnose because of the presence of a visible bump. A CT scan or even an MRI, however, is useful for viewing details of the hernia and for planning treatment options.

Treatment:

Treatment depends on the size of the hernia. If small and not causing too much discomfort a doctor may recommend waiting to see if the problem worsens. Large hernias that become painful need to be fixed with surgery, while small hernias may simply be left alone and carefully watched over time.

Complications:

A dangerous complication is if the hernia becomes strangulated. This is when the piece of tissue becomes trapped, such that blood flow is cut off, which will cause the tissue to die. 

What is Ulcer?

Definition:

An ulcer is a sore that forms somewhere in the gastrointestinal tract; often in the lining of the stomach, but also in the duodenum or the lower part of the esophagus.

Symptoms:

The most notable sign of an ulcer is a burning pain that is usually high up in the abdomen. Pain in the case of a duodenal ulcer is often relieved by eating food but the opposite occurs in the case of a stomach ulcer, with eating triggering pain. Additional symptoms of an ulcer include feeling nauseated and having heartburn.

Causes and risk factors:

Many ulcers are caused by infections with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, but use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also erode the lining of the stomach and duodenum causing ulcers to form. Risk factors for ulcers include having H. pylori infection, using NSAIDs and drinking alcohol. 

Diagnosis:

Diagnosis of an ulcer is by noting the symptoms and recording the presence of the sore during an endoscopic examination.

Treatment:

Ulcers can be treated with antibiotics such as metronidazole, and also certain types of medications that decrease the amount of acid being produced. Proton pump inhibitors are one of the types of medications that work to decrease acid production. It is important to also stop taking NSAIDs and avoid drinking alcohol, which will worsen the problem.

Complications:

An ulcer can worsen and erode through the stomach or duodenum causing digestive contents to spill into the body cavity leading to dangerous infections. The other complications include massive bleeding and obstruction of the digestive tract. 

Difference between Hernia and Ulcer?

Definition

A hernia is when a part of an organ protrudes through the wall of the abdomen. An ulcer is a sore that forms at some place in the digestive tract.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a hernia include a visible bulge and feeling of discomfort or pain. Symptoms of an ulcer include heartburn, nausea, and pain that is made better or worse by eating food.

Causes

A hernia is caused by lifting heavy objects or can be a complication from abdominal surgery.  An ulcer can be caused by an H. pylori bacterial infection or using NSAIDs.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of a hernia is by physical exam and using CT or MRI. The diagnosis of an ulcer is by physical exam and endoscopy.

Treatment

A hernia may need to be treated with laparoscopic or open surgery. Antibiotics and acid reducers are used to treat ulcers.

Complications

Complications of hernias include strangulation, and ischemia in which blood flow is cut off to the piece of organ that is trapped. Complications of an ulcer include bleeding, obstruction of the digestive tract, and perforation.

Table comparing Hernia and Ulcer

Summary of Hernia Vs. Ulcer

  • A hernia is when part of an organ moves through a section of the abdominal wall.
  • An ulcer is a sore that develops in the inner lining of the digestive system.
  • Both hernias and ulcers can cause discomfort and pain.

Other FAQ

Is an ulcer the same as a hernia?

An ulcer is not the same as a hernia because while an ulcer is a sore inside an organ, a hernia is simply the organ protruding through the abdominal wall.

Can a hernia feel like an ulcer?

A hernia can have similar symptoms depending on the type, for instance, a hiatal hernia causes heartburn and so does a stomach ulcer.

How does a hernia feel?

There is often a general feeling of discomfort and some tenderness in the area that worsens if the region is being stressed or further strained in some way.

What does a stomach hernia look like?

A stomach hernia often presents as a visible bulge in the upper part of the abdomen.

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References :


[0]Ansari, Parswa. “Hernias of the Abdominal Wall.” Merckmanuals. Merck & Co., 2020, https://www.msdmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/acute-abdomen-and-surgical-gastroenterology/hernias-of-the-abdominal-wall

[1]Mayo Clinic. “Peptic ulcer.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 2021, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/peptic-ulcer/symptoms-causes/syc-20354223

[2]Vakil, Nimish. ”Peptic Ulcer Disease.” Merckmanuals. Merck & Co., 2020, https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/gastritis-and-peptic-ulcer-disease/peptic-ulcer-disease

[3]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gastric_Ulcer.png

[4]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_man_with_an_Inguinal_Hernia.png

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