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Reviewed 10/26/2022

Hernias: True or false?

You've no doubt heard of a hernia. That's when part of an organ or other tissue breaks through a muscle wall in the belly, groin or chest. However, not all hernias are alike. How much do you know about them?

True or false: Hernias always occur in the groin from lifting or straining too hard.

False. There are different types of hernia and many likely causes. Some hernias develop in a weakness at the belly button or over an old surgical incision site. With a hiatal hernia, part of the upper stomach extends through the diaphragm into the chest.

True or false: Hernias almost always happen in men.

False. It's true that some types of hernias occur often in men. But women are more likely to have a femoral hernia than are men. With this type of hernia, a portion of intestine or tissue pokes through the abdomen wall near the upper thigh and groin. However, an inguinal (groin) hernia occurs mostly in middle-aged and older men.

True or false: A bulge under the skin is a common sign of a hernia.

True. A hernia may appear as a bulge in the abdomen, and it may be sore. It also may hurt if you lift something, cough, or stand on your feet a lot. If you have a hiatal hernia in the chest, you won't notice a bulge. Instead, you might sometimes have pain, heartburn or trouble swallowing.

True or false: Hernias occur in both children and adults.

True. People of all ages—even babies—can get hernias. Children may be born with a hernia, or the hernia may develop when they get older. Babies can also be born with a hiatal hernia. Some children have hernias that are discovered when they become adults.

True or false: Hernias generally heal on their own.

False. Surgery is the only sure way to repair a hernia. It usually involves stitching together tissue to close the hole. Sometimes mesh is used to patch and reinforce the weakened abdominal wall. Emergency surgery may be needed for some hernias—for examples, if part of the protruding intestine becomes stuck inside the abdominal wall.

If you think you have a hernia, let your doctor know. You can learn more about this condition in our Hernia topic center.

Learn more about hernias

Sources: National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse; Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons; U.S. National Library of Medicine

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