The symptoms of a hernia are usually quite distinct, however the best course of action is always to consult a medical professional who is experienced in such diagnoses. A primary care physician, as well as a specialist such as Dr. Lublin, will be able to identify, almost immediately, the presence of a hernia in the abdomen. Since abdominal hernias are not necessarily painful, may cause intermittent symptoms, and can regress in the early stages of development, patients should be on the lookout for the following:
Bulges, Lumps or swelling
A bulge or lump in the abdominal wall is very common to almost all hernias. The actual location of the bulge will define what type of hernia it is. The bulge or lump can be small and look more like a generalized like swelling. Most patients realize they have a hernia when they feel a bulge, even if there is no associated pain. The bulge may be present all the time or it may come and go depending on the patient’s activity. For example, protruding intestinal tissue may recede when the patient lies down. Generally, any activity that increases the pressure in the abdomen such as exercising, standing, or straining will result in a bulge, if a hernia is present.
Pain and Discomfort
Pain, aches and discomfort in the area of a hernia may also be present. However this is not always the case, especially in a newly formed hernia. The pain may be more severe when the patient is lifting heavy objects, straining the abdominal muscles, or standing for a long time. The pain or aching caused by a hernia is usually a result of the abdominal contents getting momentarily caught or pinched in the hernia (the hole in the abdominal wall fascia). As a result, the pain associated with a hernia is usually localized.
However, there are times where the nerve bundles in the area of a hernia are irritated, which can lead to referred pain – pain in other areas of the abdomen that are not herniated. This is because nerves do not supply one area of the body but, generally, multiple areas. When a nerve is irritated, the other areas a nerve supplies can feel irritated and the patient may experience pain away from the actual area. Commonly, an inguinal or groin hernia will present with discomfort in a man’s scrotum or a woman’s labia. Pain can even travel to the back, upper leg and elsewhere.
Severe Pain (Strangulation)
Severe and continuous pain with redness and tenderness in the area are the telltale signs of a strangulated hernia. This condition can also cause generalized pain throughout the abdominal area. A strangulated hernia is an emergency situation that requires immediate attention. As the abdominal contents, usually the small intestine, are squeezed and trapped in the hernia, called incarceration, the organ becomes strangulated and blood flow to the area is lost. This condition can be fatal.
DO NOT ignore your hernia because the pain may have gone away. Hernias, once formed, do not repair themselves. Ignoring a hernia can make subsequent attacks more likely and can cause serious complications.
If you believe you may have a hernia, you should get a thorough evaluation from a qualified medical professional. While pain in the abdomen can be a hernia there are also non-hernia-related conditions that should be explored as well.