All newly discovered hernias or symptoms that suggest you might have a hernia should prompt a visit to the doctor. Hernias, even those that ache, if they are not tender and easy to reduce (push back into the abdomen ), are not surgical emergencies, but all have the potential to become serious. Referral to a surgeon should generally be made so that you can have surgery by choice (called elective surgery) and avoid the risk of emergency surgery should your hernia become irreducible or strangulated.
If you find a new, painful, tender, and irreducible lump, it's possible you may have an irreducible hernia, and you should have it checked in an emergency setting. If you already have a hernia and it suddenly becomes painful, tender, and irreducible, you should also go to the emergency department. Strangulation (cut off blood supply) of intestine within the hernia sac can lead to gangrenous (dead) bowel in as little as 6 hours. Not all irreducible hernias are strangulated, but not all cases of strangulation are irreducible hernias.
In general, all hernias should be repaired unless severe pre-existing medical conditions make surgery unsafe. The possible exception to this is a hernia with a large opening. Trusses and surgical belts or bindings may be helpful in holding back the protrusion of selected hernias when surgery is not possible or must be delayed. However, they should never be used in the case of femoral hernias.
Avoid activities that increase intra-abdominal pressure (lifting, coughing, or straining) that may cause the hernia to increase in size.
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