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When to Contact a Physician

Could I have a hernia?

The most common symptom of inguinal, incisional, umbilical and ventral hernias is a painful lump or bulge underneath the skin where the hernia occurs. This can be in the groin or in the abdomen and is caused by intestine or other soft tissue pushing through a weakness or gap in the abdominal wall. Usually, the protrusion is more pronounced when standing, especially when coughing or straining, and it may get smaller or go away when lying down or relaxing. 

Symptoms of abdominal or groin hernias include:

  • A bulge or lump in your groin
  • A pulling sensation in your groin, with or without a bulge

Hiatal hernias occur when the stomach pushes up into the chest through a small opening in the diaphragm—the muscle that separates the abdomen from the chest—and often do not cause any symptoms aside from mild heartburn.

Only a trained health care provider can properly evaluate your condition. If you suspect you have a hernia, contact your primary care provider or a specialist.

Is my hernia a medical emergency?

Hernias become a medical emergency if the intestine—or esophagus, in the case of hiatal hernias—becomes trapped or incarcerated, cutting off its own blood supply. When blood supply is cut off, a condition known as strangulation, tissue can quickly die or become necrotic and cause a life-threatening infection that requires immediate surgical removal of the affected intestine.

Symptoms of a hernia in need of emergency treatment include:

  • Severe pain, swelling or redness at the hernia site
  • Hernia bulge growing quickly
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Constipation and/or bloating
  • Fever

If you experience any of the above symptoms of a strangulated hernia, contact your primary care provider as soon as symptoms occur. If you cannot contact your primary care provider, go to the closest emergency room.