Incarcerated hernia symptoms

Updated November 21, 2016

When muscle or connective tissue (fascia) becomes weak, a hole is created, and an organ or fatty tissue can squeeze through it. Hernias are common. Some children are even born with hernias. Most noticeable is a bulging of the abdomen when the organ or fatty tissue begins to protrude through the muscle. Most hernias can be easily treated. But with the more serious kinds of hernias, such as incarcerated or strangulated hernias, symptoms and complications can become serious.

Incarcerated Hernia

An incarcerated hernia can be potentially problematic. Tissues that become trapped begin to lose their oxygen and blood supply. The tissue can then die and become gangrenous (start to decay). When you first have an incarcerated hernia, you may notice that you cannot push the bulge back into the abdomen. This is a sign of a serious issue.

Warning Symptoms

Most incarcerated hernias have symptoms of pain that comes and goes (associated with the hernia site). Gradually, the pain becomes more aggressive and does not go away. If you touch the bulge, you may notice that it has become increasingly hard to the touch and is no longer fleshy.

Bowel Obstruction

If intestinal tissue becomes trapped through a hernia opening, food has no way of manoeuvring through the tract. A bowel obstruction may occur. You may have difficulty having a bowel movement or it may become painful. You may experience nausea and vomiting. Irritability and fever may also occur.

Other Symptoms

Other symptoms associated with this type of hernia are fatigue and weakness. Overall discomfort and abdominal pain are also common.


Though rare, gangrene can occur. When the tissue becomes blocked and starts to decay, serious symptoms can occur. You may notice a blue or blackish colouring to your skin. The pain may be extremely unbearable and there may be numbness of the skin.

Septic Shock

Septic shock is rare in incarcerated hernias and only occurs if medical help is not sought. If you begin to run a high fever (over 38.9 degrees Celsius), feel dizzy, become confused, or notice that your heart rate is escalating, seek immediate medical attention.

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