All you need to know about inguinal hernia | Symptoms and treatment
Do you feel pain in your lower abdomen or groin area when you bend, cough, or lift something heavy? Or, do you feel a noticeable bump around the pubic or groin area, especially when you stand up or cough?
If you answered in an affirmative to either of the above, you might have developed an inguinal hernia, and you must visit a doctor to prevent any further complications.
To help you out, we have compiled all the information you need to recognize the symptoms of inguinal hernia and when to seek help.
What is an Inguinal Hernia?
A hernia is a common condition, which occurs when a part of an internal organ or tissue bulges through a muscle. An inguinal hernia involves a part of the small intestine or fat bulging through the lower abdominal wall into the inguinal canal or the groin area.
Both men and women have inguinal canals – which is a passage in the lower abdominal wall that contains nerves and blood vessels. In males, it also holds the spermatic cord and the testes descend through the canal before birth. For women, the inguinal canal is the passage for the ligament that supports the uterus.
As mentioned before, a hernia in this passage can lead to a noticeable bump and may be painful during movement.
Types of Inguinal Hernia
Two types of inguinal hernia are identified, that is:
- Indirect inguinal hernia caused by a birth defect in the abdominal wall
- Direct inguinal hernia, which occurs due to weak abdominal wall muscles, caused by heavy lifting or straining over time
Direct inguinal hernias are most common in older adults. According to an article published by Cleveland Clinic, male adults over the age of 40 are more likely to develop an inguinal hernia. Another study conducted in India reveals that groin hernias are 20 times more common in men than women.
Health experts also agree that smoking, abdominal surgery and a family history of inguinal hernias may put individuals at a higher risk.
When to seek help?
If you feel a noticeable bump in the groin area or experience pain during movement, it is best to get checked for an inguinal hernia. On the whole, an inguinal hernia is not a serious or fatal condition. Still, medical intervention is necessary to prevent complications such as incarcerated hernia or strangulation.
Incarceration occurs when a part of the fat or small intestine from the abdomen gets stuck in the groin area, and cannot go back into the stomach. If this condition remains untreated, the blood supply to the small intestine can be cut off (strangulation), which can have serious consequences.
Symptoms of Inguinal Hernia
Symptoms of an inguinal hernia include:
- A bulge in the groin area, which will be more noticeable if you stand or sit erect, cough, or strain the abdominal muscles.
- You may feel pain or itching in the bulge at times, or mild discomfort when lifting heavy things, coughing, exercising or bending over.
- A feeling of weakness, pressure, heaviness or burning in the groin area
- Some men may also experience swelling in the scrotum
- In infants, a hernia may only be visible while crying, coughing or straining during a bowel movement. The infant may be irritable and suffer from a low appetite.
Causes of Inguinal Hernia
There isn’t any single cause for hernia, but weak abdominal and groin muscles can be major contributors. Other risk factors for a hernia include family history, premature birth, chronic cough, constipation, obesity, etc.
As you can see, you cannot control many factors on this list. However, it is in your hands to eat a healthy, high-fibre diet and maintain a healthy weight. It is also advisable to not lift heavy weights and quit smoking to reduce your chances of developing an inguinal hernia.
Inguinal Hernia diagnosis
If you or your child experience swelling, bumps or pain or pressure in the groin, it is advisable to seek immediate medical attention.
Your doctor will ask you a few questions about your family history and lifestyle, before conducting a physical examination to feel the bulge. The doctor may ask you to sit erect, cough or strain to see if the bulge comes out.
In some instances, an X-Ray may be recommended to determine the state of the hernia, according to which your healthcare provider will prescribe the treatment.
Inguinal Hernia treatment
All hernias in the inguinal canal do not require surgery. Sometimes, a healthcare provider may ‘push’ a small inguinal hernia back into the abdomen – which can resolve the issue for good.
However, if this approach does not work, surgery may be required for inguinal hernia repair.
Inguinal hernia repair, also known as herniorrhaphy, is of the following types:
- Open hernia repair: In this case, an incision is made in the groin to push back the hernia into the abdomen. The abdominal wall is strengthened using mesh or stitches, to prevent the problem in the future.
- Laparoscopic hernia repair: This is a less invasive surgical procedure using a laparoscope to repair the hernia through small incisions. It results in faster healing and recovery post-surgery. Robotic hernia repair using a laparoscope is also being undertaken at many hospitals currently.
Do not feel shy or afraid to discuss bumps in your groin area or pelvic region with your doctor. An inguinal hernia is a common problem, and more prevalent in male adults. Fortunately, it isn’t a serious problem and, in most cases, can be quickly taken care of by a medical professional.
However, it is strongly recommended to contact a healthcare practitioner if you:
- Feel any sudden pain or pressure in your groin
- Notice a bulge in your pelvic area
- Experience discomfort in the groin while moving or working out
Call up your doctor to discuss your symptoms openly or book an appointment at CK Birla Hospital for instant expert care.
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