Inguinal Hernia: Signs, Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, and Prevention

Photo credit: Bigstockphoto
Photo credit: Bigstockphoto

An inguinal hernia is a condition that affects the groin area. It occurs when the tissue pushes through a weak spot in the groin muscle. This causes a painful bulge in the scrotum or groin. Overweight individuals, pregnant women and those who do a lot of heavy lifting are likely to suffer from an inguinal hernia.

Signs and Symptoms of Inguinal Hernia

The most common signs and symptoms of an inguinal hernia are a painful bulge along the pubic or groin area, pain in the groin when coughing or bending over and burning sensation. The affected area may be sensitive to the touch. In men, a sign of an inguinal hernia is inflammation or swelling of the scrotum.

This condition is hereditary, but those with no history of a hernia may also develop an inguinal hernia if they regularly lift heavy objects. In women, this condition is likely to occur after childbirth. Being obese or overweight is also a risk factor. Individuals who are constantly constipated or suffering from chronic coughing could develop an inguinal hernia.

Types of Inguinal Hernia

There are two types of inguinal hernia: direct and indirect inguinal hernia. A direct inguinal hernia occurs in adults. It’s caused by weak muscles during adulthood. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, direct inguinal hernia is more common among men than women.

An indirect inguinal hernia occurs in premature births. At this point, the inguinal canal is not fully developed. However, there are cases when indirect inguinal hernia developed later in life. Again, an indirect inguinal hernia is more common among men than women.

If an inguinal hernia is left untreated, it can become incarcerated or strangulated. An incarcerated inguinal hernia happens when the tissue becomes stuck in the groin and cannot go back to its normal position. On the other hand, a strangulated inguinal hernia occurs when blood flow is blocked to the small intestines. This condition is more serious and will require immediate medical care.

Treating Inguinal Hernias

Because no drug can compel a displaced muscle to go back to its original position, inguinal hernia will require surgery. There are two types of procedure that can correct the position of the displaced muscle: herniorrhaphy or laparoscopic surgery.

In herniorrhaphy or open surgery, the surgeon will make a large incision directly in the groin area to return the displaced abdominal tissue back to its original position. The surgeon will then repair the abdominal wall to prevent the tissues from returning into the wrong position.

In laparoscopic surgery, the surgeon will make several incisions into the groin area. Between the two surgeries, herniorrhaphy requires shorter recovery time.

How to Prevent Inguinal Hernias

You can prevent an inguinal hernia by eating fiber-rich foods and maintaining a normal weight. Avoid heavy lifting because the pressure can weaken the abdominal muscle wall. You minimize the risk of an inguinal hernia by quitting smoking too. Tobacco smoke can cause tissue breakdown and this can weaken the muscle wall.

Early detection and prompt treatment are important to prevent an inguinal hernia from worsening. Do note that surgery will not prevent a recurrence. If you start experiencing new symptoms after surgery, consult your doctor.