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When to Seek Medical Care
All newly discovered hernias or symptoms that suggest you might have a hernia should prompt a visit to the doctor. Hernias, even those that ache, if they are not tender and easy to reduce (pushed back into the abdomen), are not necessarily surgical emergencies, but all have the potential to become serious. Referral to a surgeon should generally be made so that the need for surgery can be established and the procedure can be performed as an elective surgery and avoid the risk of emergency surgery should your hernia become irreducible or strangulated.
If you find a new, painful, tender, and irreducible lump, it's possible you may have an irreducible hernia, and you should have it checked in an emergency setting. If you already have a hernia and it suddenly becomes painful, tender, and irreducible, you should also go to the emergency department. Strangulation of intestine within the hernia sac can lead to gangrenous (dead) bowel in as little as 6 hours. Not all irreducible hernias are strangulated, but they need to be evaluated.
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