Hernia: Meaning, Symptoms, Home Remedies, Complications

Medically reviewed by

General Health

12 min read

Key Takeaways

  • An inguinal hernia arises when tissue sticks through a weak area in the abdominal muscles, such as part of the intestine
  • The ensuing bulge might be unpleasant when you cough, lean over or move a large thing
  • Many hernias, however, do not cause pain

You develop a hernia when a part of an organ or fatty tissue in your body protrudes through the cavity containing it. The weak points through which the contents of the cavity herniate are called fascia. Depending on where the hernia occurs, for instance, in the groin or abdominal wall, the hernia is given a different name. Among the most common types of hernia are inguinal, femoral, incisional, hiatal, and umbilical or belly button hernia.

However, not everyone is prone to hernia in the same way. For instance, femoral hernia, in which part of your bowel or tissue pushes through into the femoral canal, at the upper thigh, is a common hernia in women. Likewise, inguinal hernia, found in the groin area, in which part of your intestine or bladder protrudes into the inguinal canal is a common hernia in men.

Hernias occur due to a range of causes, from family history and smoking to pregnancy, age and premature birth. When it occurs due to physical activity, it is sometimes called a sports hernia. Irrespective of the cause, when a hernia occurs it doesn’t disappear without care. Sometimes surgery is a must. To know more about the types of hernia, hernia causes, symptoms, and treatment, read on.

What is Hernia?

A hernia is caused when an organ pushes through a tear in the muscle or tissue that keeps it in place. An area of the abdominal wall that is weaker may allow the intestines to pass through.

Although they can also happen in the upper thigh and groin, hernias most frequently develop in the abdomen across your chest and hips.

Hernias often do not result in rapid death, but they also do not cure on their own. Sometimes surgery is required to avoid serious consequences.

Hernia Symptoms

The most typical hernia indicator is a lump or protrusion in the affected area. For example, in the case of an inguinal hernia, you could detect a bump on each side of your pubic bone where your groin and thigh meet.

You could see that the lump "disappears" when you lie down. You're more likely to feel your hernia through touch while you're coughing, stooping, or standing up. The area around the bump may also be painful or uncomfortable.

The symptoms of some hernias, such as Hiatal hernias, and Hiatal hernias, might be more distinct. Some of the symptoms include chest pain, heartburn, and trouble swallowing.

Hernias are often asymptomatic. You may not realize you have a hernia unless it is discovered during a routine physical or an unrelated medical exam.

Hernia Causes

Hernias develop as a result of muscular weakness and tension. Depending on the etiology, a hernia may develop quickly or gradually.

The following are a few typical causes of muscle weakness or strain that can result in a hernia:

  • A congenital disorder that develops in the womb and is present from birth ageing damage caused by an accident or surgery
  • Hard exercise or heavy weight lifting
  • Pregnancy with persistent coughing or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), particularly several pregnancies
  • Constipation is encouraged by being overweight or obese, which makes it difficult to have a bowel movement.
  • Ascites

Your chances of getting a hernia are increased by a number of risk factors. They are as follows:

  • Birthing early or with a low birth weight
  • Having an older persistent cough (likely due to the repetitive increase in abdominal pressure)
  • Pregnancy with cystic fibrosis
  • Constipation that persists
  • Being obese or being overweight
  • Smoking, which deteriorates connective tissue
  • An individual or family history of hernias

Hernia Treatment

Surgical correction is the only effective technique to treat a hernia. Whether or not you need, surgery will depend on the extent of your hernia and the intensity of your symptoms.

Your doctor might only want to monitor your hernia for any issues. This method is known as careful waiting.

Wearing a truss may assist in alleviating hernia symptoms in certain circumstances. A truss is a supportive garment that helps keep the hernia in place. Before wearing a truss, always consult your doctor to ensure it fits properly.

If you have a hiatal hernia, over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medicines that reduce stomach acid can ease discomfort and improve symptoms. Antacids, H2 receptor blockers, and proton pump inhibitors are examples of such medications.

Hernia Diagnosis

Your doctor will first undertake a physical examination to determine your illness. During this exam, the doctor may feel for a bulge in your abdomen or groin that increases in size when you stand, cough, or strain.

Your doctor will then ask you about your medical history. They could inquire about a variety of things, including:

  • When did you first become aware of the bulge?
  • Have you had any more symptoms?
  • Do you believe hernia is caused by anything in particular?
  • Is heavy lifting a part of your job? 
  • Do you work out frequently? 
  • Do you lift weights professionally or for fun? 
  • Do you have a smoking history?
  • Do you have a family or personal history of hernias?
  • Have you ever undergone any abdominal or groin surgery?

Your doctor will almost certainly employ imaging tests to help them make a diagnosis. These are some examples:

Ultrasound of the abdomen:

Abdominal ultrasonography creates a picture of the structures inside the body by using high-frequency sound waves.

CT scan of the abdomen:

An abdominal CT scan creates a picture by combining X-rays and computer technologies.

MRI scan of the abdomen:

An abdominal MRI scan creates a picture by combining powerful magnets and radio waves.

If your doctor believes you have a hiatal hernia, they may do further tests to examine the inside of your stomach:

Gastrointestinal X-rays:

A medical professional will provide a liquid that contains diatrizoate meglumine/diatrizoate sodium (Gastrografin) or a fluid barium solution to you. These beverages make your digestive tract visible on X-ray imaging.


A tiny camera linked to a tube is threaded down your neck and into your esophagus and stomach during an endoscopy.


Hernia symptoms

Types of Hernia

Inguinal Hernia

Also called a groin hernia, an inguinal hernia occurs when soft tissue, often that of the intestine, protrudes through a weak point in the abdominal wall. The tissue often pushes through into the inguinal canal in the groin and over 10 million cases of inguinal hernia arise in India every year. This is one of the more common hernia in men.

Inguinal Hernia Causes

Inguinal hernia may be caused due to:

  • Increased abdominal pressure
  • Prior groin hernia
  • Weakening of the abdominal wall
  • Aging
  • Pregnancy
  • Chronic coughing/ sneezing
  • Obesity
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Exertion

Inguinal Hernia Symptoms

Common symptoms of inguinal hernia include:

  • Bulging at the groin or pubic area, which may seem to increase in size when you cough or stand up
  • Burning sensation at the bulge
  • Pain when bending over, exercising, lifting heavy objects or coughing
  • Heavy sensation at the groin area
  • Restricted bowel movements
  • Pain in the pelvis, groin or testicle
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the groin or scrotal swelling

Inguinal Hernia Treatment

Treatment is not always necessary and at times a supportive device may be used to push the protruding tissue back. If the pain intensifies or the hernia grows, surgery can repair the weakened abdominal wall. You can undergo open or laparoscopic inguinal herniorrhaphy.

Hiatal Hernia

A hiatal hernia is caused when your stomach’s top part juts into your chest cavity through the diaphragm. The opening through which the hernia occurs is called the oesophageal hiatus. More than 1 million cases of hiatal hernia occur in India every year. Hiatal hernias are of two types, sliding and fixed. Sliding hernias are more common.

Hiatal Hernia Causes

A hiatal hernia may be caused due to:

  • Injury
  • Damage to the diaphragm
  • Excessive vomiting/ coughing
  • Lifting of heavy objects
  • Large oesophageal hiatus
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Aging
  • Straining bowel movements

Hiatal Hernia Symptoms

Common symptoms of hiatal hernia include:

  • Heartburn, which intensifies when you lie down or bend over
  • Belching
  • Bloating
  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Regurgitation
  • Throat irritation
  • Swallowing problems

Hiatal Hernia Treatment

In cases of acid reflux or heartburn, medications like antacids and proton-pump inhibitors can work. Weight loss initiatives, lifestyle changes and a new diet can also help. In case further treatment is required you may need to undergo a hernia repair, Nissen fundoplication or laparoscopic surgery.

Umbilical Hernia

Also called belly button hernia, umbilical hernia occurs when intestinal or other tissues within the abdominal cavity protrude through a weak point in the abdominal wall muscles at the belly button. Many infants, up to 20%, are born with belly button hernia; however, this can occur anytime in life. Most umbilical hernias close on their own, by the age of 4 to 5 and do not cause pain. There are over 1 million cases of umbilical hernia in India each year.

Umbilical Hernia

Umbilical Hernia Causes

Umbilical hernia arises due to the failure of the abdominal wall muscle, which allows the umbilical cord to pass through, to join back or close completely. The hernia may arise due to:

  • Excessive abdominal pressure
  • Being overweight
  • Multiple gestation
  • Frequent pregnancies
  • Previous abdominal surgery

Umbilical Hernia Symptoms

Common symptoms of umbilical hernia include:

  • Protruding belly button, especially when the baby laughs, coughs or strains
  • Sudden vomiting
  • Pain
  • Discoloured bulge

Umbilical Hernia Treatment

Most umbilical hernias close by the time the child is 5 years old. However, if it does not heal by itself or with supportive care and becomes stuck, doctors may suggest surgery by the age 4.

Femoral Hernia

When a part of your intra-abdominal tissue protrudes through a fragile spot in the abdominal wall into the femoral canal, a femoral hernia occurs. The femoral canal lies below the inguinal ligament and hence, a femoral hernia would be seen below an inguinal hernia. This is a more common hernia in women, rather than in men. However, a majority of groin-related hernias are inguinal and not femoral.

Femoral Hernia Causes

A femoral hernia may be caused due to:

  • Being born with weakened muscle walls
  • Childbirth
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Obesity
  • Chronic constipation
  • Chronic coughing
  • Excessive abdominal fluid build-up
  • Difficult urination

Femoral Hernia Symptoms

Common symptoms of femoral hernia include:

  • Bulge on the upper thigh or groin, which may be painful
  • Bulge worsens when standing, straining, or lifting objects
  • Hip pain
  • Stomach pain
  • Groin pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Femoral Hernia Treatment

No treatment may be required for small hernias, and supportive care may suffice. However, in case of a great level of discomfort, your doctor may suggest hernia repair surgery. The surgeries are of 2 types: open and laparoscopic.

Ventral Hernia

A ventral hernia occurs when intestinal or abdominal tissue pushes through a weak spot in the abdominal wall. These occur along the midline of the abdominal wall. Belly button hernia is, in fact, one type of ventral hernia. Epigastric hernia, which occurs in the region between the navel and breastbone, is another. Incisional hernia which form where previous surgical incisions have been made are a third. Occurring in the lower abdomen, the spigelian hernia is also called a lateral ventral hernia.

Ventral Hernia Causes

Ventral hernia may arise due to:

  • Previous abdominal surgery
  • Congenital defect
  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Strained bowel movement
  • Aging
  • Family history
  • Injuries to bowel area

Ventral Hernia Symptoms

Common symptoms of ventral hernia include:

  • Intense pain along the hernia area
  • Bulging in the abdomen, which may be tender to touch
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pain when standing or lifting heavy objects

Ventral Hernia Treatment

Treatment for ventral hernia includes surgery. This eliminates the risk of the hernia enlarging and causing serious medical complications. Surgery for ventral hernia can be open surgery, laparoscopic surgery, mesh placement surgery or even robotic hernia repair.

Home Remedies for Hernia

You may do certain things to reduce your symptoms, but home cures won't heal your hernia.

By consuming more fiber, you may be able to overcome constipation. Constipation might strain you when going to the bathroom, aggravating hernias. Whole grains, fruits, and veggies are among the foods high in fiber.

Altering one's diet can also assist with hiatal hernia symptoms. Keep your weight in a medium range, try to avoid eating large or heavy meals, and avoid lying down or bending over just after eating.

Avoid eating things that could trigger acid reflux, such as spicy meals and tomato-based dishes. If you smoke, you could also benefit from quitting.

Hernia Complications

Hernias may have repercussions that might be fatal if left untreated.

Your hernia could enlarge and develop other signs. Additionally, it could exert much more pressure on the tissues in the immediate vicinity, which might result in discomfort and edema.

Additionally, a section of your intestine can get stuck in the abdominal wall. This is referred to as imprisonment. Constipation, severe discomfort, and nausea can all result from intestinal obstruction brought on by incarceration.

Strangulation happens if the confined portion of your intestines doesn't receive adequate blood flow. The gut tissue may get an infection or perish as a result of this. A strangulated hernia poses a serious health risk and needs rapid medical attention.

You may experience the following signs if your hernia requires immediate medical attention:

  • An expansion that becomes red
  • Purple discomfort that progressively worsens
  • Not being able to release gas
  • Have bowel motions due to nausea and 
  • Vomiting

Hernia Prevention

A hernia cannot always be stopped from occurring. A hernia can occasionally develop as a result of a hereditary disease or a prior operation.

But you may reduce your chance of a hernia by making a few easy lifestyle changes. These actions are meant to lessen the stress you put on your body.

Here are some broad guidelines for prevention and treatment:

  • If you smoke, think about giving it up. To develop a smoking cessation strategy that is ideal for you, see your doctor.
  • If you're unwell, visit a doctor to prevent the onset of a chronic cough.
  • Preserve healthy body weight.
  • When urinating or having a bowel movement, try not to strain.
  • Consume enough meals high in fiber to avoid constipation.
  • Perform abdominal strengthening exercises to aid your muscles.
  • Do not raise weights that are too difficult for you. If you must bend over to lift anything heavy, do it at the knees rather than the waist or back. 
  • Additionally, when lifting large items, try not to hold your breath. Exhale during the raise to lessen the possibility of developing or getting a hiatal hernia.

Now that you are aware of the various types of hernia, it is important to note that, often, hernia causes no particular symptoms to arise. Similarly, in terms of treatment, sometimes surgery is required and at other times lifestyle modifications may suffice. Nonetheless diagnosing and, especially, treating a hernia is a process, during which it is best to consult periodically with a medical professional.

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Published on 21 Jul 2020Last updated on 21 Dec 2022
  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/inguinal-hernia#causes
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/inguinal-hernia#symptoms
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/inguinal-hernia#treatment
  4. https://www.healthline.com/health/hiatal-hernia#treatment
  5. https://www.healthline.com/health/umbilical-hernia#treatment
  6. https://www.healthline.com/health/femoral-hernia#treatment
  7. https://www.healthline.com/health/ventral-hernia

Please note that this article is solely meant for informational purposes and Bajaj Finserv Health Limited (“BFHL”) does not shoulder any responsibility of the views/advice/information expressed/given by the writer/reviewer/originator. This article should not be considered as a substitute for any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with your trusted physician/qualified healthcare professional to evaluate your medical condition. The above article has been reviewed by a qualified doctor and BFHL is not responsible for any damages for any information or services provided by any third party.


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