Don’t ignore a lump or bulge that seems to flatten out when you push it or if you lie down. Hernias may require surgery. Learn more about symptoms of a hernia.
Hernias are quite common, especially in older men. Often patients figure out they have a hernia on their own. They are also common in babies.
Not all hernias require surgery, but you do need to watch for danger signs.
Surgical repairs are one of the most common and successful surgeries. About a million of these surgeries are performed each year in the United States.
What are the symptoms of a hernia?
- Do you see a swelling, lump, or bulge in your midsection or in your groin or scrotum, the pouch that contains the testicles?
- Do you feel pain in that area while bending over or lifting heavy objects?
- Does the area ache or burn? Is the bulge getting larger?
- You may feel full, as if you’ve overeaten, and possibly be constipated and see blood in your stool.
These symptoms suggest that an internal organ has pushed through muscle and is protruding into the wrong spot.
With a hiatal hernia, when the stomach is pushing into the chest cavity via an opening where the food tube (esophagus) passes, you won’t see a bulge. You may not have symptoms, but it’s also possible you’ll experience heartburn and abdominal pain.
Many people simply push the bulge back in. It might disappear when you lie down. But movement typically makes the lump pop out again, such as when you laugh, cry, cough, or strain during a bowel movement.
Danger arises if a hernia becomes stuck, which can lead to the tissue losing its blood supply. This is called strangulation, a medical emergency.
Symptoms of a stuck or strangulated hernia
Seek medical attention if you suspect you have a hernia and experience any of these symptoms:
- Not being able to push the bulge back in or it gets soft
- It turns red, purple, or dark
- Nausea, vomiting, or both
- Sudden pain that gets worse quickly
- Not being able to poop or pass gas
Symptoms of a hernia in children
It’s common for babies to have a weak abdominal wall at birth and have an umbilical hernia, in which internal tissue presses against the belly button. You might see a bulge there when your child cries, coughs, or strains to poop. When your child relaxes, the bulge often disappears. But it may also grow bigger and stretch the skin.
This is all usually harmless, and the hernia will likely go away on its own before your child is five. Seek help if the bulge grows red or your child is in pain, has a fever, vomits, or refuses to eat.
Many boys have harmless bulges or swelling around the testicles, a buildup of liquid called a hydrocele. These usually go away within six to 12 months. But if a bulge swells and shrinks noticeably during short periods, it is more likely to be an inguinal hernia, which means it will not go away and will eventually require surgery. This is one of the most common surgeries on children.
Often these hernias are small and may be unnoticeable until the teenage years. Pediatricians find them during routine physical exams. This is why they feel the scrotum while asking boys to cough.
What you can do
If you know you have a hernia, talk to your doctor about it. Monitor any changes and be ready to have surgery, if needed. If your child has a bulge either at the belly button or groin, monitor it for any changes and see your child’s pediatrician if you notice any.
December 22, 2022
Janet O'Dell, RN