A hernia occurs when one of the organs pushes through tissue or muscle that contains it. This condition usually appears in the abdomen or groin. Not everyone will experience pain or discomfort due to this condition. In addition, it usually looks similar to a bulge, which goes and comes when you perform different activities or positions. In any case, most hernia types require surgical repair.

What is a Hernia?

Approximately all hernias involve one of the abdominal organs that pushes through the abdominal cavity walls. It commonly occurs as an individual ages and regular wear and tear of the muscles start to add up. However, a hernia may happen due to an injury, surgery, or birth disorder. Check below the common locations of hernia:

  • Lower chest through the diaphragm
  • Through the lower abdominal wall in the groin
  • Along the front midline of the abdomen
  • It also may appear through an abdominal surgery incision

Hernia Types

  • Perineal Hernia – This hernia type often occurs when an organ or tissue pushes through the pelvic floor into the abdominal cavity.
  • Ventral Hernia – This includes umbilical hernia and incisional hernia and happens through the front wall of the abdomen.
  • Umbilical Hernia – Roughly all umbilical hernias are congenital and occur through your abdominal wall near the belly button.
  • Incisional Hernia – If the tissue protrudes through an incision in the abdominal wall. It is usually an adverse reaction to abdominal surgery.
  • Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia – This type of hernia is considered a birth defect in which the diaphragm does not close during fetal development.
  • Hiatal Hernia – It is a common hernia type that people usually acquire during their lifetime. It occurs when the diaphragm opening widens, which provokes your stomach to go up through the opening into the chest.
  • Femoral Hernia – It begins underneath the inguinal canal. However, it is considered a less common type of groin hernia.
  • Inguinal Hernia – About 75% of all hernias an inguinal, which makes it the most common type. Mostly, men and people assigned to male at birth (AMAB) are affected by this hernia type. It usually occurs when a part of the bowel protrudes into the inguinal canal.

How Serious is a Hernia?

While some of them can be serious, most of them are not. Leaving an untreated hernia may become serious over time. If you experience a serious hernia, it is blocked in the whole it passed through and cannot go back in. As a result, it causes pain, and tissue may be cut off from the blood supply, which leads to tissue death (necrosis). However, it is recommended to repair the hernia with surgery as soon as possible.


However, not all hernia types provoke symptoms and if they occur, symptoms are different among people. The main symptom of a hernia is a visible bulge or lump that often appears when you are doing certain activities or staying in certain positions. Moreover, it may come out when you cough, laugh, strain, lift, or others. You may feel a dull ache or pinching when it comes out.

Commonly, the symptoms are the same in both men and women. Except for a groin hernia that can slip down into the genital area causing scrotal swelling in men. Invisible and unexplained groin pain can provoke femoral hernias in women.


A hernia happens when a preexisting opening or weakness of the muscle allows a tissue or other organs to pass through the barrier. While an opening or weakness may be present at birth, other people may develop it during their lives. In addition, an injury, surgery, and repetitive stress injury can provoke a hernia.

Risk Factors

Check below some risk factors that may contribute to or cause a hernia:

  • Chronic cough
  • Allergies (such as chronic sneezing)
  • Chronic constipation
  • Heavy lifting job
  • Standing for many hours
  • Abdominal or pelvic surgery
  • Pregnancy
  • Chronic obesity

In addition, check below some examples of when your child can be born with a congenital hernia:

  • Prematurely born
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Connective tissue disorder
  • Congenital hip dysplasia
  • Undescended testicles
  • Certain problems in the reproductive or urinary system

For more details, discuss with your healthcare professional.


Complications usually start when a hernia cannot move back in (incarcerated) and get stuck. As a result, the hernia becomes very painful and serious. For example, if the bowel is stuck, it may lead to an obstruction. Therefore, food or gas cannot pass through it. Additionally, gangrene and necrosis can occur if incarcerated tissue does not have a blood supply (strangulation).

Diaphragmatic hernia complications are quite different. In such cases, it is less likely that tissues or organs that pass through the diaphragm to get stuck. Rarely, chronic acid reflux can occur as a complication of hiatal hernia. In any case, congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) is complicated every time it happens, and babies born with this hernia type will need intensive care. Talk with your doctor for more details.

Furthermore, if you experience pain due to a hernia, you should at least contact your healthcare provider. Make sure that your doctor diagnoses hernia pain because it may be mistaken for other conditions with similar symptoms. However, if your hernia goes numb and you experience the following symptoms, get medical attention immediately. Examples include fever, nausea, and vomiting.


Usually, a physical examination is enough to diagnose this health condition. However, some hernia types may require soft tissue imaging including a CT scan.


Commonly, most hernias require surgery to repair but if you have a small or mild hernia, the surgery may be not necessary. On the other hand, hernias tend to worsen over time and that’s why doctors recommend repairing them. Moreover, umbilical hernias in babies do not go away on their own and require medical care. Check below for some surgery options used to treat hernia:

  • Hernia Repair Surgery – This is a common mini procedure in which the surgeons will push the tissue back into place and reinforce the barrier. Physicians may also use minimally invasive options to repair a hernia. Therefore, they usually mean small incisions, less postoperative pain, and quick recovery.
  • Laparoscopic Surgery – This surgery involves a laparoscope (a thin tube with a camera that helps to look inside the surgical area). In some cases, this surgery may be performed using robotic arms, which are controlled by the surgeon.
  • In some cases, a hiatal hernia may provoke chronic acid reflux. Hence, your physician may advise a Nissen fundoplication to fix this problem. This surgery involves wrapping the upper stomach around the esophagus.

What Can Occur if Leave Hernia Untreated?

Not treating a hernia may lead to certain complications (such as pain, chronic acid reflux, and others). The hernia complications usually occur because they tend to become worse over time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there possible side effects or complications of the treatment?

Generally, no but there is a small risk of surgical complications including excessive bleeding, wound infection, and certain reactions to the anesthesia. In some cases, people experience urinating problems but it last a short time after surgery. In addition, roughly 10% of patients notice chronic groin pain after they have inguinal hernia repair. This chronic pain may be caused by nerve damage. Ask your healthcare professional if you have any questions.

How common are hernias?

Generally, this condition is considered common in the U.S. About 25% of men experience inguinal hernias at some point in their lives. In addition, hiatal hernias impact about 20% of people in the United States and 50% over 50 years old. Approximately 15% of newborns experience congenital hernias (mostly umbilical).

What is a sports hernia?

This is a type of injury that often negatively affects athletes which appears in the lower abdomen or groin. However, there is no protrude through tissues or muscles, which means that it is not related to a hernia. As a result, sports hernia is a misnomer. For more details, talk with your healthcare professional.

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