How would I know if I had a hernia?

Written by: Mr Michael Stellakis
Edited by: Bronwen Griffiths

Hernias are fairly common and can affect men, women and even children. Often described as a protruding lump, usually on the abdomen, there are several types of hernia which differ. Mr Michael Stellakis, a leading colorectal surgeon, explains how you can identify a hernia and what type it could be.

How would you recognise if you had a hernia?

I am often asked by patients “how would I know if I had a hernia?” and it is quite simple really; a hernia is essentially a lump. Hernias can occur anywhere around the abdomen, but the common places are in the groin, around the belly button and/or underneath a previous surgical scar.

Common symptoms of a hernia:

  • The lump is protruding
  • It is unsightly
  • It can feel uncomfortable

One of the key features is that when you cough or strain, it can temporarily get larger. We call this a cough impulse and it is fairly easy to elicit.

Often hernias, when you are not straining or if you are lying flat and relaxed, will disappear. This is particularly true of groin or inguinal hernias.

If you feel you have a hernia then it is certainly worth having it checked, either at your local general practitioners or through a specialist. They will be able to recommend the best treatment option, which may or may not be surgical.

What are the different types of hernias?

Hernias occur when the intra-abdominal contents move through a defect, in or around the abdomen to create a lump.

There are various types of hernias, some of which are more common than others. The more common types of hernia are:

What causes a hernia?

A hernia happens when intra-abdominal contents (bowel, fat or an organ) protrude through a defect in the abdominal wall. Sometimes these defects can be congenital, inherent or a design defect, and other times, those defects can be acquired. For example, through an old surgical incision site.

Some of the more common, such as inguinal or groin hernias, because there are inherent congenital weaknesses within the groin, particularly in men. These weaknesses are actually leftover from the descent of the testicle which has to journey from inside the abdomen to essentially outside of the body by the time you are one year old and they leave little holes in the groin through which hernias can develop.

By Mr Michael Stellakis

Mr Michael Stellakis is one of the UK’s leading laparoscopic abdominal surgeons, offering a range of state-of-the-art treatments for hernia, gallbladder disease, colon cancer, sports groin injuries, and irritable bowel syndrome, from his private practice at Nuffield Health Warwickshire Hospital.

Mr Stellakis is one of the few UK surgeons who has performed over 2000 TEP laparoscopic hernias with excellent audited results and is the most experienced laparoscopic hernia surgeon in the Midlands. This technique, whilst more complex to perform than other keyhole or open repairs, affords the patient less pain and scarring and quicker recovery whilst being safer than other techniques.

Mr Stellakis is also one of only 57 consultant surgeons in the UK qualified to train other consultants in advanced keyhole techniques for removing bowel cancers. He is an early pioneer of this form of treatment, having set up from scratch the keyhole bowel cancer service at Warwick hospital, then trained junior surgeons and fellows to introduce the procedure across the Midlands. Mr Stellakis’ comfort and patient satisfaction scores are excellent, and he is audited on a regular basis.

Originally qualifying in Medicine from the University of Bristol in 1991, Mr Stellakis trained at a number of institutes of excellence in London, Paris and Strasbourg, before completing a fellowship in laparoscopic bowel surgery at Frimley Park Hospital in 2004. Mr Stellakis is additionally a fellow of the Association of Coloproctology, Great Britain and Ireland, and of the Association of Laparoscopic Surgeons. In addition to his private practice he has 14 years’ experience as consultant laparoscopic surgeon at South Warwickshire Foundation Trust.

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