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How to tell if you have a hernia

Hernia explanation

How to tell if you have a hernia?

Hernia is a commonly occurring problem. It brings about the presence of a localized bulge in the groin or abdomen. In most cases, it is painless and harmless but, in some cases, it causes pain and can be discomforting.

What is a Hernia?

A tear in the muscle or tissue is called a hernia. It causes a bulge at the part it occurs in. It can occur in the intestines or internal organs. The affected organ or tissue can become infected too. Hernias can also be blocked or strangled. They are not life-threatening but need to be treated.  If left untreated, the bulge increases.

What Causes Hernia?

Hernias are caused by either of the two possibilities. The first cause is a combination of pressure and an opening. Due to the pressure, an organ or tissue is pushed through an opening. The pressure exerted can be a result of lifting a heavy object suddenly, constipation, diarrhea, or continuous sneezing or coughing. The second cause can be the weakness of a muscle. The reason for the weakness of the muscle can be since birth or developed at a later stage in life. Muscles can weaken due to poor nutrition, smoking, or obesity.

Symptoms of Hernia

The common symptoms of a hernia include a cough, heartburn, and difficulty in swallowing. It depends on which body part did the hernia occur. A common sign of the disease is a visible bulge in the affected area. In severe cases of hernia, the symptoms include shooting pain, constipation, and vomiting. If the hernia is left untreated, it can increase in size and cause pain while lifting things and doing other activities.

Types of Hernia

Hernias are of many types. The commonly occurring types of hernias are mentioned below.

Hiatal Hernia

Hiatal hernia is also called hiatus hernia. This type of hernia occurs in the upper part of the stomach. In this condition, the upper part of the stomach gets pushed out of the abdominal cavity into the chest cavity through an opening in the diaphragm.

Umbilical Hernia

In this type of hernia, the fatty tissues or part of the intestine pushes through the abdomen near the navel.

Femoral and Inguinal Hernias

This type of hernia occurs in the groin area. It can be of two types namely, femoral hernia and inguinal hernia. The former is seen in women and the latter in men. In femoral hernia, the fatty tissues of the intestine protrude out into the groin at the top of the inner thigh. In the inguinal type of hernia, part of the intestine or the fatty tissues poke into the groin at the top of the inner thigh.

Epigastric Hernia

When fatty tissues protrude through the abdominal area between the breastbone and the navel, epigastric hernia is developed.

Incisional Hernia

In this type of hernia, the tissues protrude through the position of an abdominal scar which has occurred through an abdominal or pelvic operation.

Spieling Hernia

A spieling hernia occurs when the intestine pushes through the abdomen below the navel at the side of the abdominal muscle.

Diaphragmatic Hernia

Hernia which occurs when the organs in the abdomen move into the chest through an opening in the diaphragm is referred to as a diaphragmatic hernia.

Ventral Hernia

When a tissue bulges through an opening in the muscles of your abdomen, the condition is called ventral hernia. In this type of hernia, the bulge reduces when you lie down. It can occur during pregnancy.

Types of Hernia

How to tell if you have a Hernia?

Fatigue: Feeling fatigued in the upper leg or groin region can be a sign of hernia.

An ache in the Pelvic Area: Some hernias can become painful and require MRIs to detect them. These types of hernias cause ache in the pelvic area.

Fever: In cases of strangulated hernias, fever can be accompanied. It is a matter of concern and be shown to a doctor at the earliest.

Nausea and Vomiting: Having nausea or vomiting can be an indication of an incarcerated hernia. An upset stomach is also experienced in such cases.

Constipation: Constipation can occur due to a blockage in the large intestine. This could be due to a hernia.

Heartburn: Heartburn is caused by hiatal hernias. It is often accompanied by chest pain.

Risk Factors of Hernia

The various risk factors of hernia are as follows:

  • Increase in age
  • Low birth weight
  • Being born prematurely
  • Obesity
  • Chronic constipation.
  • Family history
  • During pregnancy
  • Chronic Cough

Treatment of Hernia

  • The most common and effective way to treat hernia is through surgery. The factors that depend on whether surgery has to be performed or not is the severity of the symptoms and the size of the hernia.
  • In the initial days of the treatment before the surgery, a supportive undergarment called truss can be given to the patient to be worn.
  • Antacids proton pump inhibitors and H-2 receptor blockers are prescribed for patients with hiatal hernia to reduce the formation of stomach acid.

Hernias in Babies

Around 20% of babies are born with umbilical hernias. The main cause is premature and underweight bay delivery. It occurs near the navel. A part of the intestine bulges out in this form of hernia. The hernia is most visible when the baby coughs or sneezes. Though these hernias are painless in the babies, it can cause symptoms like vomiting for the baby. If there is a doubt that the baby has a hernia, you should visit a pediatrician.

Hernias during Pregnancy

Hernias can occur during pregnancy. You should immediately consult your gynecologist to get it checked. Normally the doctor will wait for after the delivery to remove the hernia. In certain cases, if the hernia tends to become larger, it might require surgery.

How can Hernia be Prevented?

With the help of certain measures, hernias can be prevented. A few of them are mentioned below.

Avoid Constipation: Constipation can lead to the development of hernias, so the condition should be avoided. In order to do so, eat a lot of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Intake of proper quantities of such food prevents the body from getting constipated.

Maintain Ideal Body Weight: Being overweight can lead to the occurrence of a hernia. Hence maintaining ideal body weight is essential in an attempt to prevent hernias.

Avoid Smoking: Smoking a lot leads to coughing. Persistent coughing can trigger the occurrence of a hernia. Hence smoking should be avoided.

Take Precautions while Lifting Heavy Objects: While exercising, take precautions to lift the weights carefully. Similarly, while lifting heavy objects in daily life, also take precautions. Randomly picking up heavy objects without caution can trigger the occurrence of a hernia.

Consult a Doctor: If you have continuous coughing and sneezing, you should consult a doctor to rule out the possibility of this disease.


Hernias are mostly treated by surgery. You will get a set of instructions after the surgery. You need to be strict in following the instructions that include precautions, diet, care of surgical spot, etc.

Hernia FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the treatment if the hernia is detected early?

If detected early, hernias can be repaired and hence treated with minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery.

What can be mistaken for a hernia?

A hernia can be misdiagnosed in women. It can be diagnosed as ovarian cysts, endometriosis, or fibroids.

How to check oneself for a hernia?

You can check yourself for a hernia through the following procedure. Check for a lump. If you feel a lump, take note of where it is. It can be a hernia. You should consult a doctor then.

Is it dangerous to ignore a hernia?

If ignored, the hernia can become large and painful. Hence, though not dangerous in the initial period, it should not be ignored.

Where is hiatal hernia pain located?

The hiatal hernia pain is located on the stomach. It has the ability to put undue pressure on the stomach.

What are the symptoms of a strangulated hiatal hernia?

Difficulty in swallowing and sudden severe chest pain are the common symptoms of a strangulated hiatal hernia. At times, this type of hernia can also cause anemia.

What happens if Hernia is left untreated?

If left untreated, hernias can become bigger and more painful. This can lead to other medical complications.

What is incarcerated hernia?

Tenderness at the incarcerated area is called an incarcerated hernia. The condition causes abdominal pain nausea, vomiting, bloating, and intestinal obstruction.

Are hernias hereditary?

No, hernias are not hereditary.

What not to do when you have a hernia?

If you have a hernia you should reduce smoking, stop eating spicy food and citrus fruits, and stop drinking carbonated beverages.

Can hernias reoccur? If yes why?

Yes, hernias can reoccur. The reason for this is because of the weakness of the tissues, smoking, and obesity factors.

What does a hiatal hernia feel like?

A hiatal hernia constitutes the feeling of heartburn, burping, nausea, vomiting and regurgitation into the esophagus.

Can hernias occur after pregnancy?

Hernia in women can occur after a C-section/ cesarean delivery. In this procedure, the baby is delivered through the incisions made in the abdomen and uterus. This can lead to the occurrence of an incision hernia at the spot of the cesarean delivery.

My child has a hernia. Which kind of doctor should I consult with?

Visit your pediatrician. S/he will guide you effectively.

I am pregnant. Should I go for a hernia surgery?

Consult with your doctor. S/he will decide on it depending on various factors.

I am 70 years old. Can I have hernia surgery?

Hernia surgeries are perfectly safe. Yes, you can have a hernia surgery at this age.

My son has a hernia. Will it get okay with time?

The pediatric hernia should not be ignored. Consult your doctor immediately.