So, you have a hernia. But how do you know if it’s time for surgery?

“It really depends on you,” answers James Babowice, DO, a general surgeon at Hartford HealthCare Medical Group. “If it hurts, or if you don’t like how it looks, or it’s holding you back from doing things you enjoy, listen to your body.”

“If something is bothering you, it’s worth getting checked out. That doesn’t mean you have to get surgery, but it will help you make an informed decision with hernia surgery,” he adds.

To point you in the right direction, Dr. Babowice shares four ways to help you decide if it’s time for hernia surgery.

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1. You have a hernia, and you’re unsure if it will get worse.

Lots of people have hernias that don’t bother them. It’s perfectly fine if you choose not to do anything about it right now. But, what about later?

Hernias tend to get bigger over time, but it doesn’t increase the health risk of the hernia. However, if your hernia starts to cause discomfort, check in with your doctor.

2. You have a hernia, and you don’t like how it looks.

If you have a bulge on your abdomen or groin and want it gone, hernia surgery can help.

You deserve the appearance that makes you feel most confident and comfortable.

> Related: Is the Lump in My Abdomen a Hernia?

3. You have a hernia, and it causes pain or impacts activity.

Hernias can hurt – often because things get squeezed internally. This pain can be more common with heavy lifting or straining. It typically hurts right over the hernia and goes away.

Hernias can also impact your core strength and make things you enjoy difficult. If you want to get back to your active lifestyle, lift weights, take a bike ride, or pick up your child without pain, hernia surgery may be the next step.

4. You have a hernia, and you suddenly feel really sick.

Sometimes, hernias can cause severe pain that doesn’t go away and causes symptoms of bowel obstruction. This may result in “incarceration” or “strangulation” of internal organs like the intestine in a hernia. In the cases of obstruction or strangulation, you may need urgent or emergent surgery.

Dr. Babowice urges you to seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following:

  • Pain that won’t go away
  • Severe pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Changes on the skin over the hernia
  • Substantial swelling or bloating of your abdomen

The good news: Recovery from hernia surgery is much easier than it used to be.

Your doctor can help inform your decision on whether to have hernia surgery. This starts with an initial conversation that may include an exam and diagnostic imaging like an ultrasound or CT scan.

And hernia surgery isn’t nearly as disruptive as it used to be.

“If you need hernia surgery at some point, it looks very different today than even 20 years ago,” explains Dr. Babowice. “Most hernia surgeries are outpatient, and you’re home the same day. Many hernia surgeries can be done with a ‘minimally invasive’ approach using laparoscopic instruments or a surgical robot. Minimally invasive surgery often has shorter recovery times and lets people return to their everyday lives faster.”

Are you still on the fence?

“Everyone is different in terms of what’s important to them or what they are experiencing,” says Dr. Babowice. “Ultimately, it’s important that people feel like they’re in the driver’s seat for their health and empowered to make the best decisions for them.”