5 Symptoms That Might Lead to a Hernia Diagnosis

May 7th 2016

If a hernia isn't causing any symptoms, it usually doesn't need any treatment. However, if it causes pain, hernia repair treatment is the only option for most types of hernia. Complications of a hernia can be serious, requiring immediate surgery.


Many hernias, especially inguinal, femoral and incisional hernias, manifest with a small swelling or lump that bulges out under the skin, usually around the groin. Sometimes these bulges go away if you adjust your physical position, especially if you lie down. Often they are tender to the touch, and sometimes they have pain or a burning sensation associated with them. Some hernias only cause pain when you bend over or try to lift something; even if these symptoms go away, it's worth mentioning them to your doctor.

Digestive Symptoms

Often hernia patients are first aware of their condition because of a feeling of heaviness that doesn't go away. In many cases, this feeling is accompanied by constipation or blood in the stool. Digestive symptoms such as nausea and vomiting may indicate the presence of a bowel obstruction or strangulation caused by a hernia. These complications can be very serious and often require immediate surgery.


Hiatal hernias often cause heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease because they consist of a portion of the stomach bulging through the diaphragm muscle. Sometimes, however, hiatal hernias have no symptoms at all.

Physical Exam

Some doctors are able to diagnose obvious hernias simply by looking at the bulge under the skin around the groin or abdomen. Umbilical hernias, in particular, are typically easy to find just by visual examination. If there's no obvious bulge, but a patient exhibits the symptoms of a hernia, the doctor may probe around the most expected areas of the abdomen and groin, sometimes asking the patient to cough while pressing in. This technique often allows the doctor to feel a hernia that hasn't made its presence known as a visible lump. In the case of an inguinal hernia that isn't obvious, the doctor must do a physical exam that involves inverting the skin of the scrotum with his finger. Doctors are also likely to ask when the lump started, whether it gives you pain and whether the pain changes with certain activities.

Diagnostic Scans

Some types of hernias are difficult to find by physical examination. In particular, femoral hernias often need to be confirmed through using computed tomography scans or ultrasounds. In addition, X-rays or ultrasounds are often ordered to confirm complications such as strangulation or obstruction of the intestines.


While there are several types of hernias, their symptoms tend to be very similar. Most hernias present themselves as lumps under the skin in the abdomen or groin area. While some hernias are asymptomatic, often they cause pain upon certain motions or when coughing. Hernias are diagnosed via physical examinations that are sometimes confirmed using diagnostic scans.

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