Hernia symptoms often vary from patient to patient. The most common complaints are pain/discomfort and a bulge or swelling at the site of the hernia. The bulge may be persistent or may go away. It may get bigger over time.
If the hernia bulge does not flatten when you lie down, the contents of the hernia may be trapped. This is called "incarcerated hernia." This type of hernia can cause blockage of the intestines. If the intestines are tightly trapped, the blood supply to the gut can get blocked and the intestines can die (i.e. become gangrenous). This is called "strangulated hernia." These may be associated with symptoms of abdominal distention, nausea, vomiting, worsening pain and skin discoloration at the site of the hernia. If, while considering surgical hernia repair, you experience any of these symptoms, please seek urgent medical attention immediately.
Causes and Risk Factors for a Hernia
Although some hernias are present at birth, the majority develop later in life. Family history of hernias can predispose you to developing a hernia. In general, conditions that increase pressure within your abdomen contribute to formation of a hernia, including:
- History of heavy lifting
- Conditions that predispose you to chronic cough, such as smoking or asthma
- Straining during a bowel movement, such as caused by chronic constipation
- Straining to urinate, such as caused by prostate enlargement
- Fluid in the abdominal cavity