User Reviewed

How to Check for a Hernia

Two Methods:Taking a Look at the Different Kinds of HerniasChecking the Symptoms

A hernia happens when an area of your muscle wall, membrane, or tissue that holds your internal organs in place becomes weakened or develops an opening. Once the weakened area or hole becomes large enough, a part of the internal organ starts poking out of its protective area. Thus, a hernia is analogous to a bag with a small hole that allows whatever you're holding, such as food or a can, to come out. Since a hernia can happen for different reasons, it's important to know how to check for a hernia to prevent further complications.

Method 1
Taking a Look at the Different Kinds of Hernias

  1. Image titled Check for a Hernia Step 1
    Check for hernias that occur around the stomach, abdomen, or chest. A hernia can affect different areas of your body in different ways, although a hernia in or around the stomach area may be the most common type of hernia. These hernias include:
    • Hiatal hernia affects the upper part of your stomach. The hiatus is an opening in the diaphragm that separates the chest area from the abdomen.[1] There are two types of hiatal hernia: sliding or paraesophageal. Hiatal hernias occur more often in women than in men.
    • Epigastric hernia occurs when small layers of fat push through the belly wall between your breast bone and your navel.[2] You can have more than one of these at a time. Although epigastric hernias often present no symptoms, it may need to be treated with surgery.
    • Incisional hernia happens when improper care after abdominal surgery results in bulging through the surgical scar.[3] Often, mesh lining is incorrectly installed and the intestines slip out of the mesh, causing a hernia.
    • Umbilical hernia are especially common among infants. When the baby cries, a lump around the belly button area usually protrudes.[4]
  2. Image titled Check for a Hernia Step 2
    Know the types of hernias that affect the groin area. Hernias can also affect the groin, pelvis, or thighs when the intestines break out of their lining, causing uncomfortable and sometimes painful lumps in these areas.
    • Inguinal hernia affects your groin area, and happens when a portion of the small intestine breaks through the abdominal lining.[5] Surgery is sometimes necessary for inguinal hernias, as complications can cause life-threatening situations.
    • Femoral hernia affects the upper thigh, right below the groin. Although it may present no pain, it looks like a bulge in your upper thigh.[6] Like hiatal hernias, femoral hernias are more common in women than in men.
    • Anal hernia happens when tissues protrude around the anal membrane. Anal hernias are rare. They are often confused with hemorrhoids.
  3. Image titled Check for a Hernia Step 3
    Understand the other types of hernias. Hernias can affect areas other than the stomach and groin region. In particular, the following hernias may present medical problems for individuals:
    • Herniated disks happens when a disk in your spinal column pops out and begins to pinch a nerve.[7] The disks around the spinal column are shock absorbers, but can be dislodged either by injury or disease, resulting in a herniated disk.
    • Intracranial hernias occur inside the head. They happen when brain tissue, fluid, and blood vessels are moved away from their usual position in the skull.[8] Especially if hernias inside the skull take place near the brain stem region, they need to be dealt with immediately.

Method 2
Checking the Symptoms

  1. 1
    Investigate possible symptoms or signs of a hernia. Hernias may be caused by a host of different factors. Once they are caused, they may or may not present pain. Look for these symptoms, especially for hernias located in the abdominal or groin region:

    • You see swelling where the pain is located. The swelling is usually on the surface of the areas such as the thigh, abdomen or groin.
      Image titled Check for a Hernia Step 4Bullet1
    • The swelling may or may not hurt; bulging, but painless, hernias are common.
      Image titled Check for a Hernia Step 4Bullet2
    • Bulges that flatten when you press down on them need prompt medical attention; bulges that do not flatten out when pressed down on need immediate medical attention.[9]
      Image titled Check for a Hernia Step 4Bullet3
    • You may notice pain that ranges from severe to mild discomfort. A common symptom of hernias is pain present when straining. If you experience pain during the following activities, you may have a hernia:
      Image titled Check for a Hernia Step 4Bullet4
    • Lift heavy objects
      Image titled Check for a Hernia Step 4Bullet5
    • Cough or sneeze
      Image titled Check for a Hernia Step 4Bullet6
    • Exercise or exert yourself
      Image titled Check for a Hernia Step 4Bullet7
    • Your pain gets worse near the end of the day. Hernia pain is often worse at the end of the day, or after long periods of standing.
  2. Image titled Check for a Hernia Step 5
    Check with a doctor to confirm a hernia. Some hernias are what doctors called "trapped" or "strangulated," meaning that the organ in question loses blood supply or blocks intestinal flow.[10] These hernias require immediate medical attention.
    • Set up an appointment and meet with a doctor. Make sure to tell the doctor about all your symptoms.
    • Undergo a physical examination. The doctor checks to see if the area increases in size when you're lifting, bending or coughing.
  3. 3
    Know what puts people at an increased risk for hernias. Why do hernias affect more than 5 million Americans?[11] Hernias can happen for many reasons. Here are just a few of the factors that put people at an increased risk for hernias[12]:

    • Genetic predisposition: If any of your parents had hernias, you are more likely to develop one.
      Image titled Check for a Hernia Step 6Bullet1
    • Age: The older you get, the higher your chance of getting a hernia.
      Image titled Check for a Hernia Step 6Bullet2
    • Pregnancy: While pregnant, the mother's stomach stretches out, making a hernia more likely.
      Image titled Check for a Hernia Step 6Bullet3
    • Sudden weight loss: People who suddenly lose weight are at increased risk of developing a hernia.
      Image titled Check for a Hernia Step 6Bullet4
    • Obesity: People who are overweight have higher chances of developing hernias compared to people who are not.
      Image titled Check for a Hernia Step 6Bullet5
    • Whooping cough: Coughing puts a lot of pressure and stress on the abdomen, leading to a possible hernia.
      Image titled Check for a Hernia Step 6Bullet6


  • You should go to the doctor if you see any of these symptoms.
  • The only treatment for a hernia is surgery. Your doctor can perform open surgery or laparoscopic surgery. Laparoscopic surgery causes less pain, smaller surgical incisions and results in a faster recovery time.
  • If your hernia is small and you have no symptoms, then your doctor may monitor the hernia to make sure it doesn't get worse.
  • You can prevent a hernia in different ways. For example, you can employ proper lifting technique, lose weight (if you're overweight) or add more fiber and fluids to your diet to avoid constipation.


  • A hernia can become an emergency when the weakened area, or hole, becomes larger and starts strangling the tissue and cutting off the blood supply. Emergency surgery is required in this case.
  • Men should contact a physician if they are straining while urinating. It could be a symptom of a more serious medical problem such as an enlarged prostate.

Article Info

Categories: Conditions and Treatments