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Symptoms and Signs of Hernia FAQ

Doctor's Notes on Hernia FAQ

Hernias occur when part of an abdominal organ or fatty tissue in the abdomen pushes through a weak spot or tear in the abdominal muscles or connective tissues. When the hernia occurs in the groin, it is called an inguinal hernia, which is the most common type of hernia. Other types of hernias include femoral (outer groin), umbilical (belly button), incisional (resulting from an incision), and hiatal (upper stomach).

Symptoms of hernias include a lump or tenderness and pressure or pain upon bending, coughing, or straining; a heavy feeling in the groin or abdomen, pain and swelling in the scrotum in men, pain with a bowel movement or during urination, pain when lifting or moving something heavy, and pain later in the day, especially if you have been standing a lot. In children, a parent may notice a lump when the baby cries or coughs or strains for a bowel movement.

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 3/21/2019

Hernia FAQ Symptoms

For a person with no symptoms, the doctor may discover a lump in the groin or abdomen during a medical exam. Most commonly, people with hernias notice a lump or tenderness and pressure or pain upon bending, coughing, or straining. The lump may be easier to feel when the person stands up. This is a sign of a reducible hernia, meaning it can be pushed back into the abdomen. When a person stands, the lump sticks out noticeably because of the pull of gravity.

Other symptoms of a hernia include the following:

  • A heavy feeling in the groin or abdomen
  • Pain and swelling in the scrotum (men)
  • Pain with a bowel movement or during urination
  • Pain when lifting or moving something heavy
  • Pain later in the day, especially if you have been standing a lot

In children, a parent may notice a lump when the baby cries or coughs or strains for a bowel movement.

An irreducible hernia cannot be pushed back inside. Any time a hernia cannot be reduced, you should contact your health-care provider. Sometimes these types of hernias can become strangulated. The tissue, usually intestine, can become trapped and the blood supply cut off. If this happens, pain, tenderness, and symptoms of a bowel obstruction (nausea and vomiting) develop. The person may develop a fever. This is a medical emergency that requires immediate surgery to repair the hernia.

Even if a person has no major symptoms, to avoid complications, the hernia should be discussed with a doctor.

Hernia FAQ Causes

Weakness in the abdominal wall may have been present since birth. But this weakness may not cause problems until later in life.

Hernias have other causes:

  • Aging
  • Injury
  • Surgery in the area that creates a weakness in the muscles because of incomplete healing
  • Incision from surgery itself creating a weak spot (the bigger the incision, the higher the chance to develop an incisional hernia)
  • Family history
  • Premature birth
  • Previous hernia (People who have a hernia on one side may develop a hernia on the other side of the abdomen.)

Some conditions may increase the pressure against the abdominal cavity and cause a muscle to tear and a hernia to form or make a hernia worse:

  • Pregnancy
  • Lifting heavy objects (Some strenuous jobs can cause hernias over time.)
  • Strenuous physical activity
  • Coughing from smoking or other lung conditions
  • Sneezing (allergies)
  • Obesity
  • Straining during a bowel movement (with constipation) or urination
  • Exercise
  • Fluid in the abdominal cavity (ascites)

Pelvic Pain What's Causing Your Pelvic Pain? Slideshow

Pelvic Pain What's Causing Your Pelvic Pain? Slideshow

Pelvic pain (pain below the belly button in the anterior lower abdomen including the sex organs) may develop from many diseases and conditions. For example, pelvic pain may come from normal menstruation, appendicitis, bladder problems; and may be associated with both benign and emergency medical conditions. For most people, pelvic pain should be investigated by a medical professional. The following slides will present some of the causes of pelvic pain.

REFERENCE:

Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

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