What Are Hernia Symptoms?

Types of Hernias

At any given time, about 5 million people in the U.S. have an abdominal hernia, says Dr. Michael Rosen, a general surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic. A hernia occurs when an internal organ or other body part protrudes through the wall of muscle or tissue that typically contains it.

There are more than a half-dozen specific types of hernias, including:

  • Inguinal hernia, which occurs when tissue, like from an intestine, protrudes through a weak spot in the abdominal muscles.
  • Incisional hernia, in which an organ or tissue juts through a scar or incision from a previous abdominal surgery, like an appendectomy.
  • Umbilical hernia, which occurs when part of the intestine or abdominal tissue peeks out through or near the navel, creating a bulge.
  • Hiatal hernia, which happens when the upper part of your stomach bulges through the large muscle separating your abdomen and chest.

Hernia Symptoms

Here are some potential symptoms of a hernia:

  • A lump or a bulge in the groin or around the belly button
  • Pain in the affected region
  • Reflux, or GERD
  • Bloating and constipation

1. A lump or a bulge in the groin or around the belly button.

The most common sign of a hernia is a painless bulge in the groin or near the bully button, Khosravi says. These bulges often develop incrementally over time. «As they grow, patients will often complain of discomfort or awareness of (the bulge) with certain activities, including standing for prolonged periods of time or sitting after a heavy meal,» he says.

2. Pain in the affected region.

Pain and discomfort in the area around the lump, whether it’s in the groin or belly region, can be a sign of a hernia, Khosravi says. Some people may report feeling intermittent pain after consuming a heavy meal, which can mean that the tissue in the hernia has been pinched off. «Usually this will go away if the patient pushes the hernia back in,» Khosravi says. A hard bulge with severe pain and overlying skin redness could be a sign of an emergency that requires surgery.

3. Reflux, or GERD.

Hernias that develop through defects in the diaphragm typically don’t cause an abdomen bulge, says Dr. Abraham Krikhely, assistant professor of surgery, minimally invasive and robotic, bariatric and general surgery at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City. A hiatal hernia is a common type of hernia through the diaphragm associated with the upward displacement of the junction between the esophagus and stomach and possibly other abdominal organs in the chest, he says. This can lead to reflux, or GERD, which occurs when your stomach contents come back into your esophagus. Shortness of breath, difficulty with passage of food after swallowing and obstruction of the stomach can also occur with larger hiatal hernias.

4. Bloating and constipation.

Hernias can sometimes lead to obstruction of the intestines that can result in symptoms related to blockage, like bloating, abdominal cramps and constipation, Krikhely says. In some cases, hernias can create intestinal blockages that keep food or liquids from either your small intestine or your large intestine, or colon, according to the Mayo Clinic. Without treatment, the blocked parts of the intestine can die, which could create serious problems, like an infection that creates a surgical emergency, Krikhely says.