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Five Symptoms that Point to a Hernia

Jun 1, 2017

An estimated 20 million hernia repairs are performed globally every year according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Most people have heard of this common condition, but not everyone understands what a hernia is and how to recognize one. In the simplest terms, a hernia occurs when an organ pushes through something it shouldn’t, like muscle or tissue. 

All hernias are caused by this combination of pressure and an opening, but hernias can appear in different parts of the body. Common places include the outer groin, belly button, upper stomach or through an abdominal incision or scar. However, more than 70 percent of hernias occur in the inner groin and are referred to as inguinal hernias, which are 25 times more likely to affect men than women.

Hernia symptoms can appear gradually or suddenly and cause varying degrees of pain or discomfort. Although symptoms may differ by individual or type of hernia, some frequent indicators include:

  1. A noticeable bulge or lump
    A bulge is the most common hernia symptom. It can sometimes be pushed back in or disappear when lying down. Often located in the groin or scrotum, the bulge can increase in size over time and cause aches or pain at the site.
  2. Pain or discomfort when coughing, straining or lifting 
    Experiencing pain when coughing or sneezing, lifting heavy objects, or even when laughing or crying can be a sign of a hernia. Usually, this discomfort will be felt in the lower abdominal area.
  3. Acid reflux or difficulty swallowing
    Frequent heartburn, indigestion and regurgitation can be indicators of a hiatal hernia. This type of hernia occurs when part of the stomach protrudes up through the diaphragm and stomach acids leak into the esophagus.
  4. Feeling full or constipated
    When a section of the intestine has become trapped, feeling bloated or full and being constipated can indicate a hernia caused by a bowel blockage. These symptoms usually develop rapidly and are accompanied by a feeling of heaviness in the abdomen.
  5. Severe pain, nausea and vomiting
    When a portion of the intestine becomes so firmly wedged against the abdominal wall that it cuts off the blood supply, a strangulated hernia occurs. It is accompanied by severe pain, nausea, vomiting and constipation, and could be life-threatening. You should seek immediate medical attention if you experience these types of intense symptoms.

An untreated hernia in adults will not go away, but the good news is hernias are treatable. If you are not experiencing any pain or complications, your doctor may choose to simply watch the hernia to make sure it does not cause further problems. If your hernia is growing larger or causing pain; however, your doctor may recommend surgery to repair the opening. 

To lessen your chances of getting a hernia, consider not smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight, avoid straining during bowel movements, using good form when lifting objects or heavy weights, and seeing a doctor for chronic coughs or constipation.

If you experience any of these hernia symptoms, make an appointment with your physician. With an early diagnosis or lifestyle changes, you can avoid serious complications.