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Hernia Symptoms & Diagnosis

Depending on the type of hernia you may notice swelling in the abdomen or an uncomfortable feeling in your gut when extending yourself, or a hernia may be picked up by a general practitioner during a routine examination. Discomfort may be experienced when bending over or stretching, particularly when exertion occurs such as when lifting heavy items and you may have a spot that swells while straining or standing up. The bulge may be present constantly or may only appear when under strain and may disappear when sleeping or laying down. You may also experience digestive upsets such as constipation.

The protrusion may be referred to as an internal or external hernia. An internal hernia is where the protrusion occurs from one wall into another cavity and an external hernia occurs when the protrusion occurs out of the skin surface.

Hernias that can’t be pushed back in from the external wall are referred to as irreducible or incarcerated hernias. These hernias may be painful and can lead to strangulation and bowel obstruction. The hernia bulge may be red or purple or shades of dark.

How Do People Get Hernias?

Hernias may be congenital or acquired, with congenital hernias occurring prenatally or during the early years of life from a congenital defect. Acquired hernias occur later in life and can occur through an area of weakness from a congenital defect.

Read more about the causes of hernias.

Untreated Hernia Complications

Strangulation can occur when hernias are not treated promptly. Symptoms of a strangulated hernia include nausea, vomiting and pain. If a hernia becomes strangulated, the blood supply may be compromised and may result in gangrene or necrosis so prompt treatment is essential. 

Hernias can become obstructed when the hernia prevents bowel contents from passing through, resulting in cramps, vomiting and the inability the absence of defecation.

Please read our section on hernia complications for more information.