Could it be a hernia? Here’s how to tell.

Published: Monday, October 18, 2021

What symptoms may indicate you have a hernia? 

Hernias can be painful and, if left untreated, can lead to serious complications. If you are experiencing any of the hernia signs and symptoms below, our specialists at the Hernia Center of Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) can determine treatment options specific to your case. 

Signs and symptoms of a hernia will vary based on the type of hernia you have. There are four main types of hernias: 

  • Inguinal hernia  
  • Femoral hernia  
  • Umbilical hernia  
  • Hiatal hernia  

Inguinal Hernias 

An inguinal hernia may develop if part of your intestine pushes into the groin at the top section of your inner thigh. 

Inguinal hernias are the most common type, accounting for approximately 75% of abdominal wall hernias. While inguinal hernias can occur in both men and women, they are more common in men. 

Inguinal hernia surgery is among the most frequently performed surgeries in the United States.

Symptoms of Inguinal Hernias

Symptoms of inguinal hernias in men:

  • A visible or palpable bulge that becomes more pronounced when you cough or strain. 
  • Mild to severe pain in the area that intensifies with strenuous activities, such as lifting or straining. 
  • Sensation of pressure or tugging around scrotum or testicles. 

Symptoms of inguinal hernias in women:

  • Pain or pressure in the affected area 
  • Bulge at the affected area 
  • Pain or discomfort that intensifies with activity 
  • Sensation of burning in the affected area 

Symptoms of inguinal hernias in children:

If your child has a bulge in the groin or scrotum, it may be an inguinal hernia. Some children are born with a weakness in his/her abdominal wall. If the hernia cannot be pushed back into the belly, the intestine may be stuck in the abdominal muscle. If this occurs, your child may experience: 

  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Pain 
  • Irritability 
  • Full belly 
  • Fever 
  • Discoloration around the affected area 

If your child has any of these symptoms, your child may have a strangulated hernia. Contact your doctor right away to determine your next steps. 

Femoral Hernias 

A femoral hernia may develop when part of your intestine pushes into the groin. Femoral hernias typically affect older women. 

Femoral hernias are relatively rare, only accounting for 3% of hernia cases. If you have a small or medium sized hernia, you may not have any symptoms or see a bulge.  

Symptoms of Femoral Hernias

Larger femoral hernias are generally more noticeable and can cause pain or discomfort. Symptoms of femoral hernias include: 

  • Visible bulge in the groin area near the upper thigh 
  • The bulge may cause pain when you lift heavy objects, strain or even just from standing up  
  • Hip pain (if the hernia is close to the hip bone) 

Umbilical Hernias 

An umbilical hernia develops when part of your intestine pushes through the abdomen near your belly button. 

Umbilical hernias are relatively common, and in most cases, painless. While umbilical hernias generally affect infants, they can also affect adults. Umbilical hernias in children will typically heal on their own by the time a child is three or four years old, but umbilical hernia surgery is usually required for this type of hernia repair in adults.

Symptoms of Umbilical Hernias
  • If a baby’s bellybutton protrudes when he or she cries, strains or coughs, it is a sign of an umbilical hernia.  
  • If an umbilical hernia presents in adulthood, it can cause abdominal pain or discomfort. 
  • If your infant has an umbilical hernia and seems to be in pain, vomits or has swelling or discoloration in the affected area, contact your doctor right away. 

Hiatal Hernias 

A hiatal hernia is when a section of your stomach pushes up into the chest cavity through an opening in the diaphragm. 

While a hiatal hernia can affect men and women of all ages, it generally affects people over the age of 50. You are also at higher risk of developing a hiatal hernia if you are overweight or a smoker. 

Symptoms of Hiatal Hernias

There are not external bulges with hiatal hernias. Symptoms may include: 

  • Heartburn 
  • Indigestion 
  • Problems swallowing 
  • Gastrointestinal reflux 
  • Chest pain 
  • Shortness of breath 

Are hernia symptoms different for men and women?

Men and women experience similar hernia symptoms including bulges, swelling, and discomfort in the affected area. Women are more prone to having their symptoms misdiagnosed because some doctors may initially suspect gynecological problems.

What else can be mistaken for a hernia?

While a hernia is the cause for most people who experience lumps in their abdomen, there are several other possibilities such as a hematoma, lipoma, a gynecological issue in women, or an undescended testicle in newborn boys. In rare cases, a lump may indicate a tumor. It’s important to seek medical care if you see or feel a lump that you can’t identify, or if you’re experiencing other hernia symptoms.   

I think I have a hernia. What now?

If you are experiencing symptoms of a hernia, schedule an appointment with one of our hernia specialists at the Hernia Center of NGMC. While effective treatment will almost always require surgery, hernia repair surgery is typically highly successful and choosing the right hernia doctor can help you avoid hernia recurrence and other complications. The Hernia Center is Georgia’s first accredited Hernia Surgery Center of Excellence and offers you access to the most advanced robotic and minimally invasive surgical techniques for hernia repair.

Our experienced surgeons have performed nearly 6,000 minimally invasive hernia repairs and more than 1,500 robotic hernia repairs using the da Vinci surgical system. Learn more about the Hernia Center of Northeast Georgia Medical Center or call 770-282-8956 to speak to our care team about questions or to schedule an appointment.