Do I have a hernia?

Its important at the outset to have an idea of what a hernia is. See 'What is a hernia'.

At the end of the day it is simply a hole – a hole through which something can protrude. The hole itself is never painful. Understand that point – its really important.

When something protrudes through the hole – usually intestine or the fat around the intestine - you will see or feel a swelling under the skin. There is sometimes, but not always, some discomfort as well – but it is not excruciating pain.

So as a rule of thumb – no swelling or lump to see or feel? – no hernia. That is when you stand up or cough. When you lie down the protruding bit usually drops back through the hole and there is nothng to see or feel – unless the hernia is irreducible. That is why doctors examine you standing and coughing when checking for a hernia.

But I have pain! and my doctor thinks it could be a hernia.. “Could be” – unlikely if you were examined properly and there was no swelling.

Are there any tests, xrays or scans, that could help? - My experience is that the doctors who read the scans tend to ‘over diagnose’ hernias. They’ll report a ‘possible’ or ‘small’ hernia when really its just a bit of normal tissue. And at the end of the day we all bulge a bit when we cough (don’t we?).

Diagnosis - So in the vast majority of cases there is an obvious swelling, seen under the skin, which aches a bit and which disappears when you lie down. Visit your doctor - though you probably know already.

What to do?

Is it dangerous?

What happens if I leave it?

What are my options?