A hernia occurs when a piece of skin or organ tissue (like the intestine) bulges through the outer tissue layer that normally holds the area in.

Several different hernia types exist — and some can be extremely painful and medical emergencies.

Keep reading to find out more about hernias, plus view images of some of the most common hernia types.

Typically, protective layers of tissue called fascia hold organs and tissues in place. They act as a strong outer covering to keep tissue supported and in place.

But sometimes the fascia can develop weak points. Instead of holding the tissue in, it allows the tissue to bulge or protrude through the weakened area. Healthcare providers call this a hernia.

Hernias don’t always require treatment, but they also don’t usually go away on their own. Sometimes a healthcare provider may recommend surgery to prevent further complications from a hernia.

What it is

An incisional hernia can occur after you’ve had surgery on your abdomen.

The condition is most likely to occur when a person has a midline abdominal incision.

With this type of incision, there’s often greater pressure on the abdominal muscles at that location, according to an article published in the journal BJS Open.

An incisional hernia occurs in about 4 to 10 percent of abdominal operations, according to a 2018 review published in the journal Deutsches Arzteblatt International.

It can cause symptoms such as:

  • pain
  • gastrointestinal upset
  • constant feeling of stomach fullness

How it’s treated

The rate of incarceration (abnormal confinement of tissue) of an incisional hernia is anywhere from 6 to 15 percent, according to the 2018 review cited previously.

If an incisional hernia is causing symptoms or appears to be at greater risk for incarceration, a healthcare provider will usually recommend surgery to repair it.

How to care for yourself

If your surgeon is comfortable with monitoring the hernia, you should notify them immediately if you have symptoms that suggest strangulation, which can include:

  • sharp abdominal pain
  • unexplained nausea
  • failure to pass gas or a bowel movement regularly

What it is

A hiatal hernia occurs when a part of the upper portion of the stomach goes up through the diaphragm.

Normally, the diaphragm keeps the stomach firmly in place, but defects can develop that allow the stomach to slide upward.

Different hiatal hernia types exist.

The most common is a type I hernia where the place where the esophagus and stomach meet goes upward through the diaphragm, according to the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons.

These hernia types often cause gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

How it’s treated

If a person has severe GERD, problems swallowing, or frequent stomach ulcers because of a type I hiatal hernia, their healthcare provider may recommend surgery to repair it.

Other hiatal hernia types may require surgical repair because the intestines or a large stomach portion is going through the diaphragm.

How to care for yourself

If your healthcare provider doesn’t recommend surgery for a hiatal hernia, you can take steps to avoid reflux symptoms.

Examples include:

What it is

A femoral hernia occurs in the lower portion of the pelvis, near the inner thigh and usually on the right side of the body.

Sometimes a healthcare provider may initially diagnose a hernia as an inguinal hernia. However, after a closer look, they realize its lower location indicates it’s a femoral hernia.

This hernia type is uncommon, occurring in less than 3 percent of all hernia types in the groin, according to StatPearls.

Women develop this hernia type 10 times more than men, likely because the shape of their pelvis.

How it’s treated

Femoral hernias have a higher rate of strangulation, which means the tissue cuts off blood flow to the intestine that bulges through. An estimated 15 to 20 percent of them result in strangulation, according to StatPearls.

You can also have a femoral hernia and an inguinal one. As a result, most healthcare providers will recommend surgical repair.

How to care for yourself

Some femoral hernias may not cause symptoms.

If you notice a bulge in your groin, where a femoral hernia usually occurs, talk to your healthcare provider.

It’s important to get a femoral hernia examined. If the hernia is strangulated, the risk of death increases 10 times, according to an article published in the journal Annals of Surgery.

What it is

Epigastric hernias occur slightly above the belly button and below the rib cage.

An epigastric hernia may occur in as much as 10 percent of the population, including children and adults, according to an article in the journal Hernia.

While these types of hernias don’t always cause symptoms, you may be able to feel a small bump or mass that may feel tender at times.

How it’s treated

Surgical repair is the only true “cure” for an epigastric hernia. A healthcare provider may not always recommend treating the hernia if it isn’t causing symptoms and is fairly small in size.

How to care for yourself

You can monitor the size of your hernia and notify your healthcare provider if it seems to be getting larger or starts causing symptoms.

Get urgent care when

Seek emergency medical attention if you have symptoms such as:

  • pain
  • tenderness
  • problems having a bowel movement

What it is

An umbilical hernia is a hernia that occurs near the belly button.

The condition occurs commonly in children, usually going away by age 4.

In adults, an estimated 90 percent are acquired, usually due to pressure from coughing or straining when having a bowel movement, according to the American College of Surgeons.

How it’s treated

If a person can push the hernia back in when it comes out (this a referred to as a “reducible” hernia), a healthcare provider may not recommend surgery to repair it.

However, the only way to truly treat the hernia is to perform surgery.

How to care for yourself

Monitor the hernia and its size. If you can’t push the hernia back in or it starts getting much larger, tell your healthcare provider.

get Urgent care when

Seek emergency medical attention if you have symptoms such as sudden pain and vomiting as these could indicate the hernia is strangulated or incarcerated.

What it is

An inguinal hernia occurs when there’s a weak portion in the lower abdominal wall. Usually, fat or the small intestine can bulge through.

Some women can have an ovary protrude through the abdominal wall. Men can have an inguinal hernia that affects their testes or scrotum.

Most inguinal hernias form on the right side, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

An inguinal hernia is most common in infants and those ages 75 to 80.

How it’s treated

A healthcare provider will most likely recommend surgery to repair an inguinal hernia. This reduces the risk that the hernia will become strangulated and damage the bowel or other surrounding organs.

If a person doesn’t have symptoms, a healthcare provider may recommend carefully watching the hernia.

However, the NIDDK reports that most men who delay inguinal hernia surgery will likely experience worsening symptoms or need surgery within 5 years of first having symptoms.

How to care for yourself

If you choose to not have surgery on your inguinal hernia, monitor its size and tell your healthcare provider if you start to have pain and discomfort with the hernia.

Get urgent care when

Seek emergency medical attention if you have:

  • severe or constant pain
  • vomiting
  • problems going to the bathroom

A hernia can cause different types of symptoms.

Symptoms can range from a small lump you can feel sometimes (usually when you stand up) to an area that causes pain because the tissue twists around or loses blood flow when it goes through the fascia.

You can also have a hernia that you can’t feel, such as a hiatal hernia in the gastrointestinal tract.

A variety of hernia types exist. In most cases, surgery is the only way to treat the hernia.

Don’t ignore symptoms such as pain or nausea related to a hernia. They could indicate that your tissue isn’t getting enough blood flow.