What Do Hormones Have to Do with Inguinal Hernias?

Listen up, men! It’s possible that increased estrogen levels as you age is the reason there are so many inguinal hernias in older men.

Man with Inguinal Hernia in pain on couch

We normally think of estrogen in relation to females, but actually the male sex hormone testosterone is converted to estrogen later in life and may be contributing to an increased likelihood of developing a particular type of hernia.

The Facts About Inguinal Hernias and Older Men

The most common surgery among older men is inguinal hernia surgery, although it’s not really clear why this is so. What we do know for sure is that age and genetics each have a significant impact on an individual’s risk of developing an inguinal hernia in later life. This risk is also heightened if the person has already experienced a hernia before.

We know that testosterone is converted to estrogen via another hormone called aromatase. As men age, this hormone settles locally in fat, muscle, and other tissue.

Hernias cause pain, pressure, swelling and burning in the groin area as abdominal muscles become weakened and part of the intestine begins to stick out beyond the abdominal wall. When this protrusion occurs in the inguinal canal, it is known as an inguinal hernia, which requires general hernia surgery to appropriately treat.

Latest Research About Hormones and Inguinal Hernias

There have been studies completed recently that investigated the relationship between estrogen and inguinal hernias. What they found was that estrogen seems to cause degenerative changes in the lower abdominal wall and result in muscle atrophy. The loss of strength in these muscle groups cause  the sphincter to weaken as well, leading to an inguinal hernia.

This particular study from Northwestern University School of Medicine further concluded that when an aromatase-blocking drug was added, it reduced the conversion to estrogen and prevented hernias in the mice and rats tested.

What Comes Next?

The next step is human research. Research with animals does not always bring about the same results and conclusions in humans. Will adding the aromatase inhibitor drug reduce or prevent inguinal hernias in older men? We won’t know for sure until those studies are completed.

If age-related increases in estrogen in conjunction with the decrease in testosterone could both be controlled, we may see less inguinal surgeries in our older male population in the future. This is good news for men of all ages!

Contact Michigan Hernia Surgery at (248) 551-9090 if you suspect you may have an inguinal hernia.