Inguinal hernias, or ruptures as they are sometimes known, are the most common type of hernia, accounting for 70 percent of all hernia cases. Men are 10 times more likely than women to get an inguinal hernia, because of a weakness that remains along the inguinal canal following the descent of the testicles into the scrotum prior to birth. Each year, over 500,000 American men require surgical repair of a hernia after reporting any variety of inguinal hernia symptoms.
What is an Inguinal Hernia?
An inguinal hernia occurs when a loop of intestine enters the inguinal canal in the groin area, between the pubis and the top of the leg. The intestine goes through the lower layers of the weakened abdominal wall and creates a lump.
Causes of Inguinal Hernia
There is often no apparent cause. Heavy lifting, straining when using the bathroom, constipation, excessive coughing or sneezing, vigorous exercise or sex can be contributory factors. Some people are at more risk than others: those with a family history of hernia, people with cystic fibrosis and those with an undescended testicle.
Signs and Symptoms of Inguinal Hernia
- Tenderness or sharp pain in the groin often aggravated by lifting or bending.
- A tender lump in the groin or scrotum that usually disappears when you lie down, and enlarges when you cough, sneeze or strain.
Treatment for Inguinal Hernia
Treatment is important to avoid a potentially serious condition called a strangulated hernia. This is when the bulging through the muscle wall obstructs the flow of blood to the intestine or stops the flow of intestinal contents, leading to tissue death.
An inguinal hernia can often be reduced (pushed back into place). If this doesn't work, then surgery is required under a general anesthetic. The segment of bowel is put back in the abdominal cavity and the muscle is closed. A piece of plastic mesh is sometimes used to reinforce the weakened muscle area. A dry dressing protects the incision area for a few days.
About one in 10 inguinal hernia sufferers may have to have a hernia repaired again. These recurrent inguinal hernias are usually the result of trauma to the operation site or to poor tissue healing.