What is an inguinal hernia?

A hernia is a protrusion of tissue from one area of the body through the wall that is supposed to contain it. Hernias can be present at birth due to incomplete closure of a structure, or they may develop later due to increased pressure pushing against a weakened area of muscle or its fibrous sheath (fascia). Inguinal hernias, which occur in about five in 100 children, more frequently in boys than girls, are the most common type of hernias (Source: PubMedHealth).

Inguinal hernias can be direct or indirect. Indirect hernias, which are present at birth, result from incomplete closure of the inguinal canal. In males, the testicles descend from their original intra-abdominal position into the scrotum through the inguinal canal. Direct inguinal hernias result from weakening of the lower abdominal muscles.

Inguinal hernias may or may not be painful, and they are typically seen as a bulge in the groin, labia or scrotum that gets larger over time. Inguinal hernias are often reducible, meaning their contents can be pushed back into the abdomen temporarily. Treatment typically requires surgery to reduce the hernia contents and to close and reinforce the opening.

Swelling can lead to entrapment, or “incarceration,” of the hernia contents, which can include fatty tissue, intestine, and other abdominal or pelvic organs. This can ultimately reduce the blood supply to the incarcerated tissues, resulting in tissue “strangulation.” Tissue strangulation is typically accompanied by intense pain, and it is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment to prevent tissue necrosis (tissue death).

Intestinal strangulation is a potentially life-threatening medical emergency that requires immediate treatment to reduce the risk of bowel loss. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have symptoms such as profuse sweating; severe abdominal pain; increased swelling of a known hernia; a painful new bulge or mass; severe nausea and vomiting; an inability to have bowel movements or pass gas; decreased or absent urine output; or high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit).

Seek prompt medical care for bulges of the groin, scrotum or labia, especially if they increase in size or are painful, or if you have been treated for an inguinal hernia but symptoms recur.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of an inguinal hernia?

Some inguinal hernias occur without symptoms. A bulge may be noticed in the groin, scrotum or labia. It may increase in size when abdominal pressure is increased, as occurs with coughing or heavy lifting. The area may be painful.

Common symptoms of inguinal hernias

Common symptoms of inguinal hernias include:

  • Bulging area or lump in the groin Read more about inguinal herniasymptoms

CAUSES

What causes inguinal hernias?

Inguinal hernias may be present at birth or they may develop over time. Hernias present at birth are called congenital hernias, and are also referred to as indirect hernias. They are a result of incomplete closure of the inguinal canal, the canal through which the testicles descend from their original intra-abdominal position into the scrotum. Direct inguinal hernias develop later in life as a ... Read more about inguinal herniacauses

TREATMENTS

How are inguinal hernias treated?

As with many diseases and conditions, treatment of inguinal hernias begins with maintaining a program of regular medical care throughout the course of your life. Regular medical care allows your health care professional to provide early screening for many conditions. And with regular medical care, your health care professional can more promptly evaluate symptoms and your risks for inguinal hern... Read more about inguinal herniatreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System


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