How to Tell If You Have a Hernia
4 Min Read
Hernias are common in both men and women, yet symptoms vary. Some types of hernias are more common in men and some may occur more often in women. A groin hernia is much less common in women than men.
Below we will address how to recognize the signs of a hernia and the symptoms may manifest themselves.
What is a Hernia?
Your abdomen contains layers upon layers of muscles and strong tissues. These help you move while also supporting and protecting the internal organs. A hernia occurs when the muscular wall becomes compromised and allows the contents inside the abdomen to descend outward. There are many different types of hernias, but the most common two occur in the belly or groin area.
What Does a Hernia Feel Like?
A hernia often feels like a slight bulge located on either side of the pubic bone (groin or inguinal hernias), in various locations in the abdomen (ventral hernias), at the site of a previous surgery (incisional hernias), near or within the belly button (umbilical hernias), or in the upper part of your chest in the diaphragm (hiatal hernias).
What Does a Ventral Hernia Feel Like?
If you have a ventral hernia, you may feel a bulge, pressure, or heaviness in your abdominal cavity. You may also feel the bulge in the outer surface of your abdomen in the affected area. A ventral hernia is not subject to occuring in one particular area like many other types of hernias, but can occur anywhere in your abdominal wall.
Many people who have a ventral hernia express symptoms of mild pain, aching, discomfort, or pressure in the affected area. These symptoms often increase with activity or exercises that add stress or strain to the abdominal wall. You may experience an increase in pain or discomfort while running, lifting heavy objects, straining during bowel movements, or while doing abdominal exercises.
In other cases, some people may not experience any adverse symptoms or pain with a ventral hernia.
What Does an Inguinal Hernia Feel Like?
Inguinal or groin hernias are often mistaken as being a male only condition. However, it is important to acknowledge that it is possible for both men and women to develop a inguinal hernia. Yet, due to the unique anatomy of both, it is more likely for a male to be at higher risk of a groin hernia.
Many people believe that women with an inguinal hernia are misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed with this condition due to varied symptoms. Some women may never experience a bulge or some of the other more noticeable symptoms as with male patients. Below is a varied list of noticeable signs for men and women with a inguinal hernia:
Symptoms in Male Patients
- A bulge you can see or feel in your groin, either side of the pubic bone
- Aching pain in the groin, scrotum, or surrounding area
- A feeling of pressure or pain in the groin
- A sensation of heaviness or tugging of the scrotum around the testicles
- Increased pain during physical activities such as: heavy lifting, pushing, and straining
Symptoms in Female Patients
- Aching or sharp pain the inguinal canal
- Burning sensation in the groin
- A bulge at the hernia site – again, may not be present in with a groin hernia for female patients
- Discomfort that increases with the aforementioned activities.
3 Signs You May Have a Hernia
A bulge in your abdomen or in your groin region may be an indicator of a hernia. Often these can go unnoticed and be present without any painful side-effects. However, during extensive physical activity or while coughing, jumping, standing, or straining during a bowel movement, you may notice the bulge more. You may notice that the lump disappears when you lay down.
Soreness or pain in the affected area may also be an indication of a hernia. Although some people may never experience any pain or discomfort, many people express a feeling or sensation of discomfort, heaviness, pressure, or pain in the affected area. This mild discomfort or pain may increase while coughing, exercising, or during bowel movements.
In severe cases, a hernia can progress to the point of strangulation. This means that the blood supply becomes cut off to certain parts of the intestine and abdomen. In this case, you may experience more severe symptoms that may include:
- chronic pain
- chronic constipation
- inability to perform a bowel movement or pass gas
a strangulated hernia can quickly become life-threatening. It is vital to your health to seek immediate medical attention if you are suffering from any of the above symptoms resulting from a hernia.
How to Feel For a Hernia
Typically, a doctor is needed to make the proper diagnosis depending on the type of hernia and the severity of your condition. Your doctor will check for a bulge in the groin or abdomen. A hernia may be hard to see or feel, so your doctor may ask you to stand and cough of strain in order to make the bulge more prominent. If the diagnosis is inconclusive, your doctor may recommend an image test, such as an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI.
You may be able to feel your hernia on your own. If you notice a slight bulge in your groin or abdomen, it is best to see a doctor before making a self-diagnosis.
Symptoms of a Hernia
Symptoms vary depending on the type of hernia you may be experiencing. Some of the more common hernia symptoms include:
- Bulge or lump in the groin, scrotum, or noticeable swelling in the scrotum.
- Pain or discomfort in the groin or abdomen that worsens if you bend over or lift anything
- A feeling of heaviness in the groin or abdomen
- Discomfort or pain during bowel movements or urination
- Abdominal pain, discomfort, or swelling at the end of the day, especially if you were standing most of the day.
Hernia Risk Factors
There are a variety of factors that may put you at risk of developing a hernia. In many cases, a hernia is the result of a weakened or compromised abdominal wall.
Some of the more common causes of a weakened abdominal wall include:
- a congenital condition that occurs during development in the womb and is present from birth
- Surgery treating a previous injury, injury
- chronic cough or chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
- smoking (can weaken the abdominal wall)
- improperly engaging in strenuous exercise or lifting heavy weights
- pregnancy, especially having multiple pregnancies
- chronic constipation, excessive strain during bowel movements
- fluid in the abdomen, or ascites
Treatment for a hernia will eventually require surgery, even if your hernia does not present any health risks at first. Engaging in a prehab type program may help reduce the risk of future complications. To learn more about Restore Your Core and abdominal restoration, click here.