WARNING: The Embarrassing Bodies website contains images of an explicit medical nature and nudity in a medical context.

NHS Choices Condition

Content supplied by NHS Choices

The main symptom of a hernia is the appearance of a lump in your abdomen or groin area. The lump may be painless and only be discovered during a check-up.

In some cases, you may be able to push the lump back into your abdomen. This is known as a reducible hernia. A hernia that cannot be pushed back into place is known as an irreducible hernia. People with irreducible hernias are more likely to experience a bowel obstruction or an interruption of blood supply to the intestine, which is known as a strangulated hernia.

In some people, certain activities can cause a hernia to become painful. These activities include:

  • bending over,
  • lifting heavy objects,
  • coughing, and
  • having sex.

In some cases of inguinal hernias, the intestine can press down into the scrotum. This can cause pain and swelling around the testicles.

Symptoms of a bowel obstruction

There is a small chance that a section of intestine could become trapped in the weak spot. This could cause a blockage of the bowel and prevent you from being able to pass stools.

The symptoms of a bowel obstruction usually develop rapidly and include:

  • intense pain,
  • feeling bloated and full,
  • nausea, and
  • vomiting.

Symptoms of a strangulated hernia

Another possible complication is that the section of intestine becomes so firmly wedged against the abdominal muscles that it loses the blood supply (strangulated hernia).

The symptoms of a strangulated hernia include:

  • a steady pain that gradually gets worse,
  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • swelling,
  • pain when the hernia is touched, and
  • red skin around the hernia.

When to seek medical advice

You should always see your GP if you think you have a hernia. Even if the hernia is not causing you pain, you may need to be referred to a surgeon. Surgery may be needed to prevent a bowel obstruction or a strangulated hernia occurring.

Dial 999 and to request an ambulance if you think that you are experiencing the symptoms of a bowel obstruction or a strangulated hernia.

Both a bowel obstruction and a strangulated hernia can be life-threatening and require emergency surgery. Approximately five in 100 of all hernia surgeries are carried out on an emergency basis.

view information about Hernia on www.nhs.co.uk »

Important Notice

The information provided on this website (including any NHS Choices medical information) is for use as information or for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical care by a qualified doctor or other qualified healthcare professional. We do not warrant that any information included within this site will meet your health or medical requirements. This Embarrassing Bodies site does not provide any medical or diagnostic services so you should always check with a health professional if you have any concerns about your health.

If you want to embed our videos in your site, read our embedding T&Cs here