An inguinal hernia occurs when the contents of the abdomen protrude through a weak spot in the lower abdominal wall, otherwise known as the groin region. This condition is classified into two types: indirect and direct. Indirect inguinal hernias occur from a natural defect in the abdominal wall, usually present from birth. Direct inguinal hernias typically develop in adult males whose abdominal wall weakens over time.
Inguinal Hernia Symptoms
In most cases, someone with an inguinal hernia will notice an unusual bulge near their groin area. This bulge may disappear when lying down and could expand and shrink while coughing. Potential symptoms could include:
- Dull or sharp pain when exercising, coughing, standing, bending or lifting objects.
- Weakness in groin area.
- Burning in groin area.
- Swelling of the scrotum in men or boys.
Inguinal Hernia Causes
Males are far more likely to develop an inguinal hernia than females. In fact, 25 percent of men will develop this issue in their lifetime compared to just two percent of females. Indirect hernias usually appear from birth to age 30.
Direct inguinal hernias generally develop in men over the age of 40 as their abdominal walls weaken with age. Studies show that a person with a family history of this condition is more likely to develop inguinal hernia issues. Smoking is also shown to increase risk.
Diagnosing an Inguinal Hernia
Since this issue is fairly easy to spot, the doctor will typically only need to perform a physical exam. During this exam, the patient may be asked to stand and cough in order to enlarge the hernia. In rare cases where the hernia can’t be found with a physical examination, an imaging test may be necessary.
Treating an Inguinal Hernia
Minor cases may not require any treatment and will be monitored regularly by a physician. Mild to severe cases are usually treated with a surgery called a herniorrhaphy. These surgeries are performed in one of two ways:
Open Hernia Repair – The surgeon will make an incision outside of the affected area. The protruding tissue will be placed back behind the abdominal wall. The weakened abdominal wall tissue will often be reinforced. Once the incision is closed, the procedure is complete.
Laparoscopic Hernia Repair – This procedure is minimally invasive. During a laparoscopy, the surgeon will create several tiny incisions and operate using a small tube attached to a camera. Small tools will be used to repair the hernia. This option may reduce recovery time, but may not be available to those with large hernias or previous pelvic surgeries.