What is inguinal hernia?
A hernia occurs when part of the internal organs or tissue presses against a weakened muscle wall. We say that an inguinal hernia exists when part of the bowel tissue or fatty tissue presses against the groin in the upper thigh. It is also the most common type of hernia.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of an inguinal hernia are a swelling or bulge in the groin or an enlargement of the scrotum. There may also be pain or discomfort, pain when coughing or standing up, or a feeling of tightness in the groin. A bulge on either side of the pubic bone may also be a sign of an inguinal hernia.
The hernia may turn inward when lying down; however, complications can occur in which the hernia becomes stuck or trapped and obstructs the bowel, or the hernia becomes strangulated, cutting off blood flow. This can be very serious and even life-threatening and requires immediate attention. Symptoms of a strangulated hernia include vomiting and nausea, fever, sudden pain, a bulge that turns red or purple, or an inability to pass stool or gas.
What causes it?
Although very often there is no obvious cause, increased pressure in the abdomen, a weak spot in the abdominal wall, straining when going to the bathroom, strenuous activity and persistent coughing can cause an inguinal hernia. In addition, they often occur during pregnancy.
Other risk factors for developing an inguinal hernia include family history of hernias, gender (men are much more likely to develop hernias) and age (the risk increases as we get older).
How can it be prevented?
The risk of developing an inguinal hernia can be reduced by avoiding putting excessive pressure on the abdomen and not straining when defecating or urinating, and by avoiding carrying and handling heavy loads; however, many hernias may be unavoidable, as they have no apparent cause. Tension in the abdominal muscles can be reduced by maintaining a healthy weight, eating a diet rich in fiber and quitting smoking.
What is the treatment?
Surgery may be used to treat an inguinal hernia, however, in many cases it is not necessary and simply monitoring the hernia may be sufficient. Surgery is recommended for hernias that cause severe pain or have developed complications.
Strangulation, when the bowel has become trapped, is one of the possible complications and requires emergency treatment to restore blood flow through surgery.