A hernia occurs when a section of intestine protrudes through a weakness in the abdominal wall. A soft bulge is seen underneath the skin where the hernia has occurred. An inguinal hernia occurs in the groin area, when a section of intestine pushes through a weak spot in the inguinal canal--a triangle-shaped opening between layers of abdominal muscle near the groin.
As a male fetus grows and matures during pregnancy, the testicles develop in the abdomen and then move down into the scrotum through the area called the inguinal canal. Shortly after the male is born, the inguinal canal closes, preventing the testicles from moving back into the abdomen. If this area does not close off completely, a loop of intestine can move into the inguinal canal through the weakened area of the lower abdominal wall, causing a hernia. Although females do not have testicles, they do have an inguinal canal and can develop hernias in this area, as well.
Obesity, pregnancy, heavy lifting, and straining to pass stool can all be causes of inguinal hernias.
The following are the most common symptoms of an inguinal hernia. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
Lump in the groin near the thigh
Pressure or pain in the groin
Partial or complete blockage of the intestine (in more severe cases) that may lead to nausea, vomiting, and poor appetite
The symptoms of an inguinal hernia may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for an inguinal hernia may include the following:
X-rays and/or CT scan. Diagnostic tests which use invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film; to check for blockage of the intestine.
Specific treatment for an inguinal hernia will be determined by your doctor based on:
Your age, overall health, and medical history
Extent of the condition
Your tolerance of specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
Expectations for the course of the condition
Your opinion or preference
The main treatment for an inguinal hernia is a surgical procedure known as herniorrhaphy. In this procedure, the opening in the muscle wall is repaired. Sometimes, in a procedure known as hernioplasty, the weak area is repaired and reinforced with steel mesh or wire. Laparoscopic surgery can also be performed by making several small incisions in the lower abdomen and inserting an instrument called a laparoscope to carefully repair the hernia using synthetic mesh.
If the protruding intestine becomes twisted or traps stool, a bowel resection may need to be performed. In this procedure, part of the intestine, or bowel, is removed.