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Symptoms of Hernias

A significant proportion of the population is at risk of developing a hernia. This is especially true of men with inguinal hernias. It is estimated that the risk of developing an inguinal hernia is close to 30% in men, and as a result, over 1,000,000 hernia repairs, about 800,000 of which are inguinal hernias, are performed every year.

However, not all hernias are found, and many, even when found are not surgically treated. This is because there is no linear relationship between the size of the hernia and the symptoms associated with the hernia. Small hernias may be very painful, while large hernias may not create much discomfort – and vice versa.

Some patients will develop a palpable or even visible bulge in their abdomen or groin – a sure sign of a hernia – which is often fatty tissue or intestine protruding through the defect in the fascia. Others will experience burning, heaviness, or pain in the area around the hernia and possibly in the scrotum. Yet, others will experience referred pain, which is discomfort in an area seemingly unrelated to the hernia. This occurs if there is nerve involvement, which can affect any part of the body connected to that same nerve bundle.

Some patients will never know they have a hernia and will never experience the symptoms mentioned above. They may go through their entire lives without suspecting or finding a hernia and may never have any complications associated with an untreated hernia.

Incarceration & Stangulation

Of note, patients that experience significant pain from a potential hernia site may have an incarcerated or strangulated hernia. These are emergency situations that require immediate medical care. A strangulated hernia can lead to significant complications and even death if not treated promptly. Typical symptoms of a strangulated hernia include:

  • An irreducible bulge in the abdomen
  • Severe pain that gets worse
  • Reddening of the skin around and over the hernia
  • Inability to pass gas or bowel movements
  • Vomiting or nausea
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