What are the Most Common Symptoms of an Epigastric Hernia?

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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 17 July 2018
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An epigastric hernia often appears between the bottom of the ribcage and the belly button, and is typically made up of fatty tissue. In most cases, this type of hernia is painless, with few symptoms besides a slight bulge beneath the skin that tends to enlarge when the abdominals are strained. On the other hand, when complications occur, there may be pain, fever, discoloration of the skin, and nausea and vomiting. These rare symptoms of this type of hernia need to be reported to a doctor soon after they show up, as they indicate a problem. In fact, a hernia that is accompanied by these symptoms is typically considered a medical emergency.

The main symptom of an epigastric hernia is a slight bulge between the navel and the bottom of the ribcage. It typically becomes more noticeable when straining the abdominals, such as when lifting heavy objects or exercising. It should be barely noticeable, if at all, when the body is at rest. If it is always obvious, a doctor should be contacted.


Some people begin to experience pain with an epigastric hernia, which is cause for concern. It typically means that it has either become much larger, or is stuck within the abdominal muscles. Pain may be felt when pushing on the site of the hernia, or it may be noticed at all times. Either way, pain is a good reason to see a doctor since it is not a normal symptom of the typical uncomplicated epigastric hernia.

Most people do not get a fever with this type of hernia, so if one occurs, medical treatment should be sought. Additionally, the onset of nausea and vomiting is only common among those experiencing complications with this hernia. While it could be due to another issue altogether, a doctor's advice should be sought, especially if this symptom is accompanied by pain and a fever.

Finally, skin discoloration is yet another symptom of complications of an epigastric hernia. In fact, it is one of the most serious symptoms since it usually indicates that the hernia has become strangulated. In most cases, it means that part of the intestine has become stuck in the abdominal wall, cutting off the blood supply. This is typically accompanied by severe pain and vomiting, and the skin around the hernia is typically black or blue. If these serious symptoms occur, immediate medical care is crucial, with surgery typically being the best way to treat the issue.


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Post 9

I lost a lot of weight and began to notice a sore lump above my belly button when I was out walking. Over time the pain got worse and began to interfere with my quality of life, so I had it looked at by a surgeon. He scheduled surgery for it the next week. I had outpatient surgical hernia repair.

I had a small hole that didn't require mesh, but was incarcerated (some of the covering of the colon was caught in it). It was traditional surgery, not laparoscopic. My recovery time was about two weeks. I felt much better within one week. I'm glad I had the surgery done; it was not too traumatic and it doesn't hurt anymore. I had about seven staples total, and a three inch scar.

Post 8

I went on a health kick and started doing lots of sit-ups. Now I feel this "bulge" right under my right rib cage. I can only feel it if I lie flat and press my fingers under that last rib, on the right.

Also, sometimes I have pain in that area right after I eat, like when the stomach muscles start moving the food, I feel the pain on the right side. The worst thing about it is, I was wearing a very tight sports bra the entire time I went on this health kick when I was doing all the sit-ups. I'm wondering if it could have caused a hernia up there.

Post 7

@anon294035: Most likely it is 'diastasis.' Not really a 'hernia' but similar in appearance. A diastasis recti may appear as a ridge running down the midline of the abdomen, anywhere from the xiphoid process to the umbilicus. It becomes more prominent with straining and may disappear when the abdominal muscles are relaxed.

Post 6

@croydon - It is a good idea to have a doctor monitor a hernia, even if you don't have surgery to fix it for a while.

My father had a hernia for years that he did nothing about. I can remember just thinking that he had an "outie" belly button and not realizing that normally he didn't. That was just the hernia surfacing.

I guess dad just didn't like the idea of unnecessary surgery and as far as I know it wasn't at all painful. He had a bad back anyway, so he wasn't going to be lifting heavy objects.

The hernia repair cost wasn't really an issue as it's almost always going to be covered by insurance and it's quite a quick and easy surgery. When dad finally did get it done, he was in and out of the hospital in a day or so.

Post 5

@anon294035 - I'm not sure whether this is an epigastric hernia or not, but I do know that you should go and see a doctor about it, even if there's no pain. Generally hernias happen because people strain too hard to pick something up.

Sometimes conditions like this can get gradually worse with time and then become an emergency very quickly. Hernia repair surgery and recovery isn't very difficult.

Post 4

I am 44 and am experiencing a classic epigastric hernia. I have been in great health all of my life, but when I lift weights, I notice a bulge in my midline just above the belly button that looks like a little alien trying to escape my belly.

Post 3

I have a literal separation down the middle of the three pairs of abdominal muscles men have between the bottom of the rib cage (tip of sternum?) to my belly button. It is six inches long and about 2 inches wide. When I strain it bulges about 1 1/2 inches high and about six inches long.

What kind of hernia is this called? Also, how and why did it form? I am obese but not with a huge, hanging belly. I mean a belly so big where I have to wear pants with suspenders.

The hernia somehow formed in the last five years when my weight went from about 220 to 260. I didn't realize it had formed and remember I did have pain now and then, but have not had any pain for several years now.

Post 2

@Mykol - Any time you have surgery for a hernia, you will always have recovery time, not only from the pain of surgery but also from the anesthesia. Just like any surgery, every person is different on how quickly they recover.

I recently had an umbilical hernia repair and really didn't know what to expect. There is never a good time to have surgery, but I didn't feel like I could take weeks off work.

This hernia repair was done by laparoscopy, so the recovery time was much less than if they had to repair it the traditional way.

It was painful for the first few days - thank goodness for pain medication. I ended up taking 10 days

off work and was able to return slowly.

The first few days back at work I only worked part time, and gradually increased my hours from there.

I feel much better now that I am fully recovered. What bothered me the most with this hernia was feeling nauseated all the time.

Post 1

My aunt recently had surgery for a hernia. This surgery ended up being more complicated than they first thought it would be, and her hernia repair recovery is also taking longer than she thought it would.

Before this was properly diagnosed and they decided on her treatment, she had lost around 30 pounds. She had an appetite, but was unable to keep any food down.

Because hers was a unique case, it took them longer than usual to figure out what was going on. By this time, the hernia was quite large and really was affecting her quality of life.

Before this happened to her, I always thought a hernia repair was a simple surgery with a fast recovery time.

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