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How Are Hernias Diagnosed?

“I think I’ve got a hernia.” Patients often come into doctors’ offices having already diagnosed themselves as having a hernia. They have a lump, pain, and it gets worse when straining and lifting heavy objects. It’s possible they are correct, but it could be several other conditions. Physicians want to know exactly what’s wrong before they begin any treatment, so how are hernias diagnosed?

Symptoms Of A Hernia

This patient could very well be correct, and they do have a hernia. Someone with a bulge or pain in that area that gets worse when they strain could indeed have a hernia.

External hernias have some similar symptoms, but they are in different areas.

They include:

  • Inguinal hernias in the abdominal wall and top of the thigh
  • Umbilical hernias near the navel
  • Incisional hernias at the site of previous abdominal surgeries
  • Femoral hernias near the groin, but a much less common type of hernia

If you can push back the lump or bulge or it disappears when you lie down, if it gets larger over time, or if you have pain when coughing, bending over, or lifting heavy objects, you may have an external hernia.

There are also instances of internal hernias where there is no bulge on the outside. Known as a hiatal hernia, there may not be any symptoms, but it can cause heartburn and many of the same symptoms as GERD. The correct diagnosis is especially significant with this type of hernia.Woman suffering from pelvic pain

How Does Agave Surgical Specialists Diagnose A Hernia?

Often a hernia can be diagnosed through a simple examination in conjunction with your symptoms. You will be asked to stand and cough since this is usually when a hernia will bulge,  but sometimes it may not be so cut and dry. If your doctor suspects you have an external or internal hernia, he or she will need a conclusive diagnosis.  In that case, additional imaging tests may be ordered.

CT Scan

A CT scan will be able to rule out any other causes of your abdominal pain and swelling, especially with women who may have an issue with a reproductive organ.


An ultrasound may be ordered for women in case there are fibroids or cysts causing the pain. For a man it will be able to identify an inguinal hernia or one near the scrotum.


This test will be able to show a hernia even if there is not an obvious bulge. Sometimes there can be a tear in the abdominal muscles.

Barium X-ray

If a hiatal hernia is suspected, an X-ray of the digestive tract will be able to show the hernia clearly after drinking a liquid.

An Endoscopy

This is another way to diagnose a hiatal hernia by sending a tiny camera on a tube down through the esophagus into the stomach.


Although not usually a life-threatening condition, hernias do not just go away by themselves and will need to be treated at some point. It is best not to wait if you receive a diagnosis as there can be complications if you wait too long.

Request an appointment online with Agave Surgical Specialists if you suspect you may be living with a hernia.