An inguinal hernia occurs when soft tissue, usually part of the intestine, protrudes through a weak point or tear in the lower abdominal wall.
This type of hernia is more common in men than women and is often caused by increased pressure in the abdominal area.
If left untreated, it can lead to complications such as incarceration or strangulation, where the tissue becomes trapped causing severe pain, nausea, and tissue death.
Symptoms of an inguinal hernia may include a visible bulge or swelling in the groin area, pain or discomfort when lifting heavy objects or bending over, pressure in the groin, and nausea or constipation.
Visible Bulge or Swelling: One of the most common symptoms of an inguinal hernia is visible or swelling in the groin area. This can appear more noticeable when standing up, coughing, or straining.
Pain or Discomfort: You may experience pain or discomfort that can range from a dull ache to a sharp pain, and may be more noticeable when lifting heavy objects or bending over.
Heaviness or Pressure: The feeling of heaviness or pressure in the groin area may be due to the protruding tissue putting pressure on the surrounding muscles and nerves.
Nausea and Vomiting: In some cases, an inguinal hernia can cause nausea and vomiting, particularly if the hernia becomes incarcerated (trapped).
Constipation or Difficulty Urinating: If the hernia is large enough, it may put pressure on the nearby bowel or bladder, causing constipation or difficulty urinating.
The common causes of an inguinal hernia are related to a weakness or strain on the lower abdominal wall, which can allow abdominal tissue to push through into the groin area. Some of the specific causes include:
Weakness in the Abdominal Wall: Direct inguinal hernias are related to a weak area in the inguinal canal wall that develops later in life, while indirect inguinal hernias occur due to a congenital weakness in the abdominal wall.
Increased Pressure in the Abdomen: This can occur due to straining during bowel movements or urination, heavy lifting, coughing, or sneezing.
Physical Activities: Activities that involve repetitive twisting or bending can put strain on the abdominal muscles and increase the risk of developing an inguinal hernia.
Prior Injury or Surgery: Previous abdominal surgery or injury can weaken the abdominal muscles and increase the risk of developing a hernia.
Family History: There may be a genetic predisposition to developing inguinal hernias, as they tend to run in families.
It’s important to note that while these factors may increase the risk of developing an inguinal hernia, not everyone with these risk factors will develop one.
The treatment for an inguinal hernia depends on the severity of the condition and the symptoms experienced. Here are some common treatments for inguinal hernias:
If the hernia is small and not causing any symptoms, the doctor may recommend simply monitoring the hernia and waiting to see if it grows or causes problems.
Making certain lifestyle changes can help alleviate symptoms and prevent the hernia from worsening. These may include avoiding heavy lifting, losing weight, quitting smoking, and avoiding activities that cause strain on the abdomen.
A hernia truss is a supportive undergarment that can help hold the hernia in place and alleviate symptoms. However, this is typically only recommended for people who are not good candidates for surgery.
Surgery is often the most effective treatment for an inguinal hernia, especially if it is causing symptoms or getting larger. There are two main types of hernia surgery: open surgery and laparoscopic surgery.
Open Surgery: This type of surgery involves making a single incision in the groin area to access the hernia. The surgeon then pushes the protruding tissue back into place and repairs the weak area in the abdominal wall using sutures or a synthetic mesh.
Open surgery is performed under general anesthesia and typically requires several weeks of recovery time.
Laparoscopic Surgery: This type of surgery is less invasive than open surgery and involves making several small incisions in the abdomen. The surgeon inserts a camera and specialized instruments through these incisions to repair the hernia.
Laparoscopic surgery is performed under general anesthesia and typically results in less pain and a shorter recovery time than open surgery.
Both types of surgery are generally safe and effective, with a low risk of complications. However, as with any surgery, there are risks involved, including bleeding, infection, and damage to surrounding tissues.