An inguinal hernia, or a groin hernia, is a protrusion (lump) of the small intestine or fatty tissue into the groin through a weakness or tear in the abdominal wall.
Description of Inguinal Hernia
In a man, an inguinal hernia develops in the region where the spermatic cord and blood vessels to the testicles pass out of the abdominal cavity and into the scrotum. The area where these pass through is called the inguinal canal. In a woman, an inguinal hernia develops where the connective tissue binding the uterus exits from the abdomen to join with the tissue surrounding the vaginal opening.
There are two (2) TYPES of inguinal hernias – indirect and direct.
- An indirect hernia affects men only. A loop of intestine passes down the inguinal canal from where a testis descends into the scrotum.
- A direct hernia affects both sexes. The intestinal loop forms a swelling in the inner part of the fold of the groin.
Additionally, there are three (3) CLASSIFICATIONS of hernia – reductible, incarcenated and strangulated.
- In a reductible hernia the protrusion can be put back into place.
- In an incarcenated hernia the protrusion can’t be put back into place without surgery because some surrounding tissues or parts have grown together
- In a strangulated hernia the protrusion becomes twisted or swollen and interferes with the normal blood flow and muscle action. Immediate surgery is needed in this type of hernia.
Causes and Risk Factors of Inguinal Hernia
Inguinal hernias are usually caused by a congenital defect which occurs as a weakness in the inguinal canal manifesting after injury, pregnancy or aging. Inguinal hernias may appear following surgery or after heavy lifting, birthing a child, exercising, persistent coughing, straining while urinating or defecating or by gaining a lot of weight.
Symptoms of Inguinal Hernia
Frequently hernias produce no symptoms. However, some people may experience the following symptoms:
- A lump or swelling in the groin
- A sudden pain into the scrotum
- Abdominal discomfort
- A heavy feeling in the groin
- Pain in the groin while standing or moving.
Diagnosis of Inguinal Hernia
If the lump is large, the doctor can see an obvious swelling or lump in the groin. If the hernia is small the doctor will examine the groin area for a bulge in the affected area.