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Hernia - How do doctors diagnose a hernia?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

If you have an inguinal hernia, you can probably see or feel a bulge or swelling in your groin. Doctors can usually diagnose a hernia by examining your groin. But you may also need an ultrasound or x-ray.

To diagnose a hernia, your doctor will probably do the following.

  • Ask about your symptoms. You may be asked if your groin is painful, how long you've had symptoms, and whether they are worse when you stand up or strain your muscles.

  • Feel your abdomen and groin. You'll need to take off some of your clothes and probably your underwear. While you're standing up, your doctor will gently press your groin to feel the bulge or painful area. You may need to cough to see if a bulge appears when you strain the muscles in your abdomen. Your doctor might also want to examine your groin again while you lie on your back.[17]

  • Examine you internally. If you're a man, your doctor may put a finger against your scrotum and press gently into an opening in your abdominal muscles (called the inguinal canal). If you have a hernia, it will bulge onto the doctor's fingertip when you cough. If you're a woman, your doctor may put a finger just inside your vagina to see if there's a bulge there.[17]

Your doctor should check both sides of your groin for hernias.[18]

Most people don't need any more tests. However, your doctor may recommend an ultrasound if:[17][19]

  • You have a soft swelling in your groin, but your doctor isn't sure that it's a hernia

  • Your groin is painful but your doctor can't feel a bulge.

An ultrasound is a reliable way to check for hernias.[1][20] It uses sound waves to create pictures of the inside of your body, and can show where and how big the gap in your muscles is. And it can show the contents of the hernia. An ultrasound can also be useful if there might be another problem that's causing the pain or swelling in your groin.

Occasionally doctors recommend other scans, such as MRI and CT scans. An MRI machine uses a magnetic field to create pictures of the inside of your body. A CT scan is a type of x-ray. It takes several pictures from different angles.


CT scan

A CT scan is a type of X-ray. It takes several detailed pictures of the inside of your body from different angles. CT stands for computed tomography. It is also called a CAT scan (computed axial tomography).

MRI scan

A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine uses a magnetic field to create detailed pictures of the inside of your body.

For more terms related to Hernia


For references related to Hernia click here.
Last Updated: October 07, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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