If the hernia is small, or if it's not causing any problems, then you and your doctor may decide to wait and see what happens.
The treatment depends on what type of hernia you have and whether it is causing problems.
Hiatus hernia treatment
If you have a hiatus (stomach) hernia, your doctor may recommend antacid medicines to reduce heartburn and reflux and other medicines to stop your stomach making acid.
You can also relieve your symptoms by:
- avoiding foods and drinks that irritate the stomach, like caffeine, chocolate, fatty foods and alcohol
- qutting smoking
- eating smaller, more frequent meals
- avoiding anything that puts pressure on the stomach, like bending, stooping, abdominal exercises, tight belts, and girdles
- losing weight if you need to
Sometimes hiatus hernias need surgery, if medicines can’t ease your symptoms or if you develop complications.
Inguinal hernia treatment
If you have an inguinal (groin) hernia, even if you don’t have symptoms, surgery is still usually recommended as there is a risk of developing significant symptoms or complications. If surgery is risky because you are elderly or have other medical problems, your doctor may decide it’s best to watch and wait. For more information, speak to your doctor or visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.
Children with an inguinal hernia usually need surgery as the hernia may get stuck and not be able to be pushed back.
Umbilical hernia treatment
Umbilical hernias often close naturally when your child is 2 to 5 years old. If it hasn’t closed by this time, or if the hernia is very large, then surgery is usually needed.
Types of surgery
There are 2 types of surgery:
- Open surgery, where the surgeon makes a cut near the hernia to repair it with stitches. They may lay down a piece of mesh to help strengthen the area.
- Laparoscopic surgery, where the surgeon makes several small cuts in the stomach. Long tools and a small camera (laparoscope) are inserted into the cuts and the images help guide the surgeon to repair the abdominal wall with stitches or a mesh implant placed from the inside.
If the hernia is very large, or if it’s trapped and can’t be pushed back, and you are in serious pain, you may need emergency surgery.
Most people need 1 to 2 weeks off work after surgery. It will be many weeks after surgery before normal activity such as lifting, bending and some sports can start again.
Last reviewed: January 2019