Hernias normally present as a lump. Sometimes pain may be the only symptom, especially in a small hernia. Small hernias can be difficult to find and an ultrasound scan may be necessary. For many patients, an examination by the doctor or specialist is enough to confirm a hernia. Typically the lump will disappear when lying down.
We worry about hernias because of the risk of “strangulation” – this means that the structures in the hernia lose their blood supply and die. This is dangerous; for some types of hernia this risk is low, whilst for others it is much higher. When a hernia and its contents can no longer be pushed back into the tummy (irreducible hernia) it is at risk of strangulation. A strangulated hernia can lead to gangrene within six hours. These conditions require urgent surgery.