- An inguinal hernia is when abdominal tissue bulges through weakened abdominal muscles, causing a lump or pain in the groin area.
- Inguinal hernias are more common in men, particularly those over 50, and can be caused by genetics, age, lifestyle factors, and medical conditions.
- Symptoms of inguinal hernia may include a tender or painful bulge in the groin area, nausea, constipation, burning sensation, and weakness in the groin area.
- Surgical repair is the most effective treatment for inguinal hernias, but hernia support belts and lifestyle changes may also help manage symptoms.
- Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and not smoking can help reduce the risk of developing an inguinal hernia.
Hernias can be a source of significant discomfort and pain for those who have them. One type of hernia you may have heard of is the inguinal hernia. Here’s everything you need to know about this type of hernia, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
What is an Inguinal Hernia?
It’s a disorder where a part of the intestine bulges in a weak spot in the abdominal muscles. This bulging usually appears in the groin area and may cause pain or discomfort. This type of hernia affects men more than women and can also be expected in babies and children.
Symptoms of Inguinal Hernia
The most common symptom of an inguinal hernia is a bulge or lump in the groin area that becomes more pronounced when you stand up or strain. This bulge may be tender, swollen, or painful, and it may be accompanied by a feeling of pressure or weakness in the groin area. Other symptoms may include a burning sensation, nausea, constipation, or a feeling of fullness in the lower abdomen.
Causes of Inguinal Hernia
There are many reasons behind inguinal hernia. Here are some risk factors for the disease:
One of the most significant risk factors for inguinal hernia is age. As you age, your abdominal muscles become weaker and less elastic, making them more susceptible to tears and ruptures. While inguinal hernias can occur at any age, they are more common in middle-aged and older adults. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), men over 50 are at the highest risk of developing inguinal hernias.
Inguinal hernias are much more common in men than women. This is because men’s testicles and spermatic cord pass through the inguinal canal, creating a natural weak spot in the abdominal wall. In contrast, women’s reproductive system is located in their pelvic cavity, which does not put as much pressure on the groin area.
If you have a family member with an inguinal hernia, you may be at a higher risk of developing one. Studies have shown that genetics can play a role in the development of hernias, although the exact mechanism is still unclear.
Certain lifestyle factors can increase your risk of developing an inguinal hernia, including heavy lifting, chronic coughing, obesity, and smoking. These factors put additional pressure on your abdominal muscles, making them more prone to tears and ruptures. If you work in a job requiring heavy lifting or regularly engage in strenuous physical activity, practice proper lifting techniques and take frequent breaks.
Certain medical conditions can also increase your risk of developing an inguinal hernia, such as prostate problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and constipation. These conditions can strain your abdominal muscles and increase intra-abdominal pressure, making hernias more likely.
There are various ways to treat inguinal hernias. Here are some of them.
One of the best ways to treat an inguinal hernia is with surgery. During general surgery, a surgeon will make an incision in your abdomen and repair the weakened muscle or tissue with sutures. Surgery can be done using either open or laparoscopic techniques. Open surgery involves making a larger incision, while laparoscopic surgery involves using small tools and cameras to repair the hernia. After the surgery, you may need to take some time off to recover.
Hernia Support Belts
If you have an inguinal hernia but don’t require surgery, your doctor may recommend wearing a hernia support belt. This belt is designed to provide external pressure on the weakened area and help minimize symptoms. Hernia support belts are usually available in most medical supply stores, but consult your doctor before purchasing one.
Exercise and Lifestyle Changes
In some cases, making lifestyle changes can be beneficial for managing inguinal hernia symptoms. Regular exercise can help strengthen the abdominal muscles and reduce stress on the area while avoiding heavy lifting and strenuous activities may help prevent further injury. Additionally, eating a well-balanced diet and not smoking can reduce your risk of developing an inguinal hernia.
Though having an inguinal hernia can be uncomfortable and painful, it is essential to remember that treatment options are available. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your hernia.