What are the signs of an inguinal hernia?

An inguinal hernia is often noticed when pain radiates through your groin as you cough, bend or lift a heavy object.

An inguinal hernia, also known as a groin hernia, is a defect of the muscles covering your groin that allows the passage of intra-abdominal contents through the muscle tear near the right or left inguinal canal. There are three primary types of inguinal hernias: the direct inguinal hernia, the femoral inguinal hernia, and the indirect inguinal hernia.

Direct inguinal hernia

A direct inguinal hernia is caused when the wall of the abdominal muscles becomes weak, allowing the intra-abdominal tissue to push through the abdominal wall. This weakening often happens over a prolonged period of time due to everyday activities and aging. 

Femoral inguinal hernia

A femoral inguinal hernia is caused when the intra-abdominal tissue pushes through a weakened spot in the wall of the femoral canal. A femoral hernia will appear as a bulge near the groin or thigh. 

Indirect inguinal hernia

An indirect inguinal hernia is caused when the intra-abdominal tissue pushes through a natural opening in the abdominal wall. While a fetus is still in the womb, there is an internal opening to the inguinal canal. In most cases, this inguinal canal opening will close before birth. When it fails to close, intra-abdominal tissue can push through causing an indirect inguinal hernia. Indirect inguinal hernias are most common in children, affecting up to five percent of newborns and up to 30 percent of premature babies. Often, indirect inguinal hernias are discovered in the first year of life, but they can remain undetected until adulthood.


Who is impacted by inguinal hernias?

Both men and women can experience inguinal hernias. Inguinal hernias are up to 10 times more common in men than in women. Statistically, one in four men will develop a hernia in their life. 


The primary risk factors include:

  • Heredity
  • Prior issues with inguinal hernias
  • Premature birth
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Cystic Fibrosis


What are the signs of inguinal hernias?

There are a few key signs to watch out for if you think you may be experiencing an inguinal hernia:

  • A bulge along the pubic or groin area that becomes more obvious when you’re upright, particularly if you cough or strain
  • Pain or discomfort in your groin when coughing, bending, lifting or exercising
  • Weakness or pressure in your groin


What are the complications of an inguinal hernia?

There are three primary complications that can occur with an inguinal hernia:

  • Incarceration - Incarceration is marked by a sudden and very painful trapping of tissue in the hernia defect.
  • Strangulation - Strangulation is the “choking” of the hernia tissues by cutting off the blood supply. Strangulated inguinal hernias can be life-threatening and need to be treated immediately.
  • Obstruction - Obstruction is the “kinking” of the intestine within the hernia defect. Obstruction can cause bloating, nausea, and vomiting and can be a precursor to strangulation.


How do you treat inguinal hernias?

To properly repair an inguinal hernia, surgery is required. There are two primary types of surgery available: Laparoscopic Inguinal Herniorrhaphy and Inguinal Herniorrhaphy.

  • Laparoscopy Inguinal Herniorrhaphy
    In a laparoscopic inguinal herniorrhaphy, the surgeon will use small incisions and a camera to repair the defect from under the muscles. A laparoscopic inguinal herniorrhaphy is a great repair for bilateral hernias or hernias of the groin accompanied by a hernia of the belly button.
  • Inguinal herniorrhaphy
    In an inguinal herniorrhaphy, the surgeon will use mesh to repair the defect through an incision directly over the groin. This is a great repair for single-sided hernias.


It is important to have a discussion with your surgeon about the type of repair that will work best for your body. Our surgeons can help you understand your options and choose the hernia procedure to best fit your condition.


How do you prevent inguinal hernias?

Many of the best ways to prevent an inguinal hernia are also great recommendations for daily living. If you’re maintaining a healthy lifestyle and taking care of your body your risk of experiencing an inguinal hernia is reduced. Some of the most important things to do if you want to reduce your risk of an inguinal hernia are:

  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Avoid smoking cigarettes
  • Eat a good amount of fiber
  • Avoid heavy lifting
  • Use your legs and not your back when lifting
  • Avoid straining while passing stool


What should you do if you think you have a hernia?

If you find yourself with any of the symptoms listed above, please contact our office immediately at 253-841-9640 . In rare cases, inguinal hernias are life-threatening. If you’re experiencing an extreme amount of abdominal or groin pain, call 9-1-1 for immediate medical attention. As you’re awaiting treatment, it is a good idea to eat a high-fiber diet with plenty of veggies, fresh fruit, and whole grains to keep your digestive system moving and avoid constipation.

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