In many cases the symptoms of a hernia in women are similar to those same signs and symptoms found in men. Diagnosing a hernia in women becomes more complicated, however, because many of the classic signs of a hernia may be misinterpreted by a woman’s doctor and the cause blamed on an unrelated or non-existent condition. By better understanding the different types of hernias a woman has a much better chance of getting treatment sooner rather than later after other misdiagnosed problems are investigated.
Symptoms of Hernia in Abdomen
The classic abdominal hernia is the one that springs to most minds when thinking about a hernia. A weak spot in the abdominal muscles can allow fatty tissue or a loop of the intestine to penetrate and appear as a bulge on the surface. This type of hernia is especially common in men. This does not mean that many women do not also suffer from abdominal hernias, but they are much harder to recognize. In women, abdominal hernias are usually internal or hidden and may compress fatty tissue and nerves without a tell-tale bulge. These occult hernias can be excruciatingly painful, but in the absence of a bulge, the abdominal and pelvic pain may be blamed on endometriosis, fibroids or an ovarian cyst. Even an MRI may not always reveal a hidden hernia. For any woman that has continued to struggle with pelvic pain without resolution it becomes very important to remind a doctor that hernias in a woman may be rare, but they should not be ruled out.
A hiatal hernia is another type of hidden hernia that can often be misdiagnosed. The diaphragm is a strong muscle that separates the stomach from the upper torso and lung area, but the esophagus penetrates this barrier and may offer a weak spot that can lead to a hiatal hernia. If the stomach pushes up through this hole, it can press against the lungs and esophagus and cause a woman much discomfort. A hiatal hernia can lead to shortness of breath and acid reflux symptoms similar to GERD. Again, because hernias in a female are not common, these symptoms can be misdiagnosed as breathing disorder or gastro-intestinal disorder.
Femoral Hernia Symptoms in Women
There is a type of hernia that is far more common in a woman and that is the femoral hernia. In many cases, there are no painful symptoms to signal anything wrong, but a femoral hernia does produce an outward bulge in the upper thigh next to the groin area which is easily noticed. When symptoms are present they may range from a mild pain when straining to a feeling of nausea or even vomiting. These more serious symptoms are often a sign that the small intestine is involved and this should be treated right away.
Symptoms of Inguinal Hernia
Another type of hernia rarely found in women is the inguinal hernia. They are very common in men due to the weakening in the lower abdomen that allow the testicles and spermatic cords to descend into the scrotum. Inguinal hernia symptoms in a woman are usually somewhat obvious. Like a femoral hernia there may be a bulge in the groin area often extending close to the labia. There may also be pain or a burning sensation present when exercising or moving in a vigorous manner. Surgery is usually required for repair, but, fortunately, inguinal hernias are very rare in females.
The symptoms of hernia in women vary as seen above based on the severity and location of the hernia. The important thing is to understand that women can and do get hernias and they should never be ruled out if abdominal pain persists. A non-surgical reduction may be possible, a hernia belt or truss may be used, or a surgical intervention may be required (usually involving the placement of mesh to strengthen a weak spot in the abdominal wall). When treated in a timely manner, a hernia rarely causes long term complications. By Bob Parker