Hernia – Signs, Symptoms and Types

22nd January 2020 By Phoenix Hospital Group

Hernia are an increasingly common problem as we get older. Affecting both men and women they can actually affect us at almost any age, but confusingly symptoms vary from case to case.[1]

Experiencing an aching feeling in your abdominal or groin area could be a sign of herniation. A hernia is simply bodily tissue that is pushed through a layer of tissue that it does not normally pass through.

Due to the anatomy of our bodies and muscles, abdominal hernia are more frequent in women, with groin hernia more frequent in men.[2]

Thankfully, despite presenting at times with distressing or painful symptoms, hernia’s are  typically quickly repaired with a relatively simple operation.

Abdominal hernias

There are actually a few different types of abdominal hernia but one most frequently seen in our clinics would be ventral hernia. Classically these hernia come about after history of putting strain on the abdominal wall, for example through weightlifting at the gym or repeatedly bearing down when going to the bathroom.

The herniation can cause numerous symptoms including pain, but sometimes you may experience a bulge in the abdominal wall without experiencing any discomfort.

Anyone who has a surgical history of abdominal operations is unfortunately at increased risk of a subtype of ventral hernia called an  incisional ventral hernia. This occurs because the wound used during operation is typically weaker than the surrounding tissue despite sufficient closure by the surgeon.

Women who have experienced one or more pregnancies are also at high risk of ventral hernia simply due to the pressure placed on abdominal structures by the weight of the baby and amniotic fluid. The belly button or umbilicus represents the thinnest layer of tissue in the abdomen and can be another site of protrusion known as an umbilical hernia.


Inguinal hernias

These hernias occur along the groin line and are more common in men, although they do occur in both genders. Men may notice a lump or protrusion in their groin or scrotum, however women may struggle to find visual confirmation of the hernia.

Again these hernia are caused by increased abdominal pressure or straining. As hernia are not always visually obvious the gender specific symptoms listed below may help to highlight any potential herniations.


Male symptoms of herniation

Discomfort in the groin

Enlargement or dragging sensation in the testicles

A visible bulge along groin line

Feeling generalised increase pressure

Movement of any visible herniation on coughing


Female symptoms of herniation

Bulging in the abdomen, which may be difficult to detect in the groin

Either dull or sharp pain

Burning sensation in the groin

Increased pain on weight-bearing activity or straining


Red Flag Hernia Symptoms

If you feel that you are experiencing any of the below symptoms this could be a sign that your hernia is more serious and requires immediate medical attention. This can happen if the bowel becomes strangled and blood supply is either reduced or cut off.


Call 999 if:

You experience severe pain

You begin vomiting or feel increasing nausea

Are unable to have a bowel motion

Have a hard or immovable bulge,  regardless of whether you’re sitting or lying down

Feel dizzy or have a high heart rate

Develop a fever or high temperature



  1. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hernia/
  2. Muysoms, F E et al. “Classification of primary and incisional abdominal wall hernias.” Hernia : the journal of hernias and abdominal wall surgery vol. 13,4 (2009): 407-14. doi:10.1007/s10029-009-0518-x