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Abdominal Problems


Prevention - When to Call a Health Professional

A hiatal hernia is a common problem that occurs when a portion of the stomach bulges into the chest cavity. Hiatal hernias often do not cause symptoms. However, sometimes a hiatal hernia will cause a backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus (the tube leading from the mouth to the stomach), which can cause heartburn and a sour taste in the mouth.

An inguinal hernia occurs when abdominal tissue bulges through a weak spot in the abdominal wall in the groin area. Inguinal hernias are more common in men than in women. In a man, an inguinal hernia may bulge into the scrotum.

A person with an inguinal hernia may sense that something has "given way." Other symptoms may include:

Inguinal hernias can be caused by increased abdominal pressure resulting from lifting heavy weights, coughing, or straining to pass stools. Sometimes a weak spot in the abdominal wall is present at birth. An inguinal hernia is called reducible if the protruding tissue can be pushed back into place in the abdomen. If the tissue cannot be pushed back into place, the hernia is called irreducible.

If an inguinal hernia is irreducible, the tissue may become trapped outside the abdominal wall. If the blood supply to the tissue is cut off (strangulated hernia), the tissue will swell and die. The dead tissue will quickly become infected, requiring immediate medical attention. Rapidly increasing pain in the groin or scrotum is a sign that a hernia has become strangulated.

A hernia can develop anywhere there is a weakness in the abdominal wall. Common places for hernias to develop are the bellybutton (umbilical hernia) and at the site of an incision from abdominal surgery (incisional hernia).


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  • Use proper lifting techniques (See Lifting), and avoid lifting weights that are too heavy for you.

  • Lose weight if you are overweight.

  • Avoid constipation and do not strain during bowel movements and urination.

  • Stop smoking, especially if you have a chronic cough.

When to Call a Health Professional

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  • If mild groin pain or an unexplained bump or swelling in the groin continues for more than 1 week.

  • If the skin over a hernia or bulge in the groin or abdomen becomes red.

  • If heartburn persists for more than 2 weeks despite Home Treatment. Call sooner if symptoms are severe or are not relieved at all by antacids or acid blockers. See Heartburn on See Heartburn.

If you have been diagnosed with a hernia, call a health professional:

  • If you have sudden, severe pain in the groin area, along with nausea, vomiting, and fever.

  • If the hernia cannot be pushed back into place with gentle pressure when you are lying down.

If you suspect that you have a hernia, see your doctor to confirm the diagnosis and discuss your treatment options.

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