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Hernia

When muscle tissue of the abdominal wall or groin area becomes weak, a hole in the muscle can develop, which leads to the surrounding tissue poking through the hole. This is known as a hernia, and it sometimes results in a painful protruding lump.

What is a hernia?

There are different types of hernia that can affect various parts of the body. The most common types of hernia are:

  • Inguinal hernia – when a part of your bowel or fatty tissue pushes through muscle in your groin, near the top of your inner thigh. This is more common in men, but also can occur in women
  • Femoral hernia – similar to an inguinal hernia, they occur in the groin area or inner thigh. They are more common in women, but are a rarer type of hernia
  • Umbilical hernia – when a part of your bowel or fatty tissue pushes through your navel. This is most common in babies, but can also affect adults (sometimes during or after pregnancy)
  • Epigastric hernia – a hernia between the sternum and navel
  • Incisional hernia – if a surgical incision in the abdominal area isn’t fully healed, it’s possible for tissue to push through

What are the symptoms of a hernia?

The symptoms of a hernia can vary depending on which type of hernia you have. The most common symptom is a visible lump, which may or may not be painful.

It’s possible that you may have a hernia without presenting any symptoms at all, and it is discovered by your consultant during a routine examination.

What causes a hernia?

A hernia is most often caused by prolonged and repeated strain on the muscles. This causes the muscles to weaken and become unable to hold tissue in place.

Common causes include:

  • Heavy lifting
  • Having to strain when using the toilet (e.g. because of constipation)
  • Physical exertion
  • Chronic coughing (e.g. because of COPD)
  • Pregnancy (particularly if you have had multiple pregnancies)
  • Childbirth
  • Advanced age
  • Obesity

How is a hernia diagnosed?

If you suspect that you might have a hernia, you should speak to your consultant.

At your appointment, your consultant will ask about your symptoms and conduct a physical examination. Often, they are able to diagnose a hernia without further investigation, however if necessary, they may also recommend that you undergo:

  • An ultrasound

How is a hernia treated?

The treatment for a hernia depends on what type of hernia you have and its severity.

If your hernia is not causing major issues or disrupting your day-to-day life, surgery might not be necessary. However, if your hernia is causing severe symptoms or if the hernia contains tissue, muscle or part of your bowel, they may recommend that you undergo surgery.

The most common surgical treatments for hernias are:

  • Laparoscopic surgery – several small incisions are made and the surgeon uses small surgical instruments to put the protruding tissue back in its natural location
  • Robotic surgery – a surgeon uses a minimally invasive robot to improve the precision of the technique.
  • Open surgery – a larger incision is made and the surgeon will push the protruding tissue back to its natural location

If you’re unsure what treatment you should go for, or the above treatments don’t work for you, our team of expert specialists are here to help.

This content has been checked and approved by

Mr James Kinross  ›

Mr James Kinross is a consultant colorectal surgeon at King Edward VII’s Hospital.

Find your specialist in hernia at King Edward VII's Hospital

If you suspect you have a hernia and you’re seeking an expert opinion, you can find the UK’s leading specialists here at King Edward VII’s Hospital. Our consultants are hand-picked for you, making it easy to access the best possible care.

Mr Alexander Von Roon  ›
Special interests include:
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Mr Satyajit Bhattacharya  ›
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Mr Jonathan McCullough  ›
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Mr Amyn Haji  ›
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Mr Danilo Miskovic  ›
Special interests include:
General surgery (+ 6) more
Mr Nicholas (Nick) Boyle  ›
Special interests include:
Laparoscopic surgery (+ 6) more
Professor Richard Cohen  ›
Special interests include:
Colorectal surgery (+ 11) more
Mr Charles Evans  ›
Special interests include:
Colorectal surgery (+ 12) more
Mr James Kinross  ›
Special interests include:
Colorectal cancer (+ 8) more
Mr Sanjay Purkayastha  ›
Special interests include:
General surgery (+ 7) more
Mr Roger Springall  ›
Special interests include:
General surgery (+ 13) more

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