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Symptoms of a Hernia

A hernia may first be noticed as a small bulge or protrusion. Most often, it does not cause pain, but may cause a little discomfort. A hernia can get larger with exercise or coughing. At this early stage, the hernia is often known as reducible because its contents (typically bowel) can be pushed back into the abdomen. However, in some cases, the hernia could progress to the point of what is known as being incarcerated, meaning that pushing the hernia contents back through the abdominal wall is no longer possible.
A more serious complication occurs If blood stops flowing through an incarcerated bowel, resulting in a strangulated hernia, which can be quite painful, can cause nausea, vomiting, and obstruction.  In severe situations, a strangulated hernia may cause necrosis of bowel segments and subsequently bowel perforation, sepsis and possibly death.9, 11

How is a Hernia Diagnosed?

A healthcare provider typically bases the diagnosis of a hernia on a physical examination. While standing, a patient may be asked to cough, which increases pressure inside the abdominal cavity.  A hernia will bulge outward, making it easier for the doctor to detect. The doctor may place a finger into a fold on the upper part of the groin to feel the sac and the opening where the hernia descends. Sometimes ultrasonography or computed tomography (CT) are used to assist in making the diagnosis.3


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