Patient Education

  • What Are Hernias?

    Hernia refers to a weakness in your abdominal wall or a defect through the fascia around the muscles. This enables the contents of your abdomen to push outward. Some people may be born with a hernia. Others may acquire one over time. If left untreated, hernias can get worse and may become strangulated, which can become a life-threatening situation.

    There are several types of hernias, depending on where they are and how they occur:

    • Diaphragmatic hernia – occurs near the diaphragm
    • Femoral hernia – occurs just below the groin
    • Hiatal hernia – occurs in the diaphragm where the esophagus meets the stomach
    • Incisional hernia – occurs at the site of prior surgical incision or scar
    • Inguinal hernia – occurs in the groin, more common in men. Learn More
    • Spigelian hernia – occurs in between muscles in the abdominal wall
    • Umbilical hernia – occurs at the navel
    • Ventral hernia – a hernia anywhere on the abdominal wall

    More Information

  • What Causes Hernias?

    Because hernias are defects through the layers of tissue around your muscles, doing lifting, sit-ups or core exercises may make them larger over time. You also might be more susceptible to hernias if you do a lot of heavy lifting or push heavy objects at work. Smoking and obesity are other common risk factors, as well as chronic coughing or constipation. If you have had a previous incision, you may develop a hernia at the incision site. Also, you might be more susceptible to hernias if they run in your family or if you are pregnant or have had multiple pregnancies.

  • What Are The Symptoms Of A Hernia?

    Hernias often start with pain in your abdomen. You also might see a bulge under your skin at the groin, navel or site of a previous incision that gets larger when you stand, lift something heavy, cough or even urinate.

  • When Should I Contact A Doctor?

    If you notice a new hernia or one that is suddenly causing you pain or a noticeable bulge, it’s time to see a doctor. Hernias that stick out and can’t be pushed back, need to be seen by a doctor. If you are vomiting or have severe pain, nausea or are sweating, your hernia may be strangulated, compromising the blood supply. This is an emergency situation and you should see your doctor or visit an Emergency Department right away.

  • What Can I Expect During The First Visit?

    One of our physicians will begin with an initial consultation to learn more about your symptoms. He or she will ask you questions about when your symptoms began, where the pain is located and what, if anything, makes it better or worse. He or she also may ask about any previous surgeries you have had.

  • How Are Hernias Diagnosed?

    Most hernias can be diagnosed with a simple physical exam. Your doctor may ask you to stand and either cough or strain, revealing a hernia bulge. If your doctor cannot make a diagnosis from this activity, he or she may order an imaging test, such as an ultrasound, CT scan or MRI.

    Hiatal hernias are treated a little differently because of their location between the esophagus and the stomach. If your doctor suspects you have a hiatal hernia, you may have a test called an esophagogastroduodenoscopy. During this test, a flexible tube with a camera on it will be fed gently down your throat to see your esophagus more clearly. You also may have an esophagram, an imaging study to visualize how your esophagus functions. These tests can reveal a hiatal hernia.