Inguinal hernias develop when the tissues of the abdomen bulge through a weaker part of the lower abdominal wall. There are two types of inguinal hernias: indirect and direct.
Indirect inguinal hernias are caused by a defect in the abdominal wall that is present at birth. On the other hand, direct hernias develop over time and are a result of muscle weakness in the lower abdomen—they are most prominent in males.
The first sign of an inguinal hernia is a small bulge in one or both sides of the groin. The size of the bulge may increase over time. Other signs and symptoms of an inguinal hernia include discomfort or pain in the groin region, feeling weak, aching in the groin, and a swollen or enlarged scrotum.
If not treated, inguinal hernias can lead to complications. One of them is incarceration, which develops fat or part of the small intestine gets stuck in the groin or scrotum and cannot get back to the abdomen. Another complication is strangulation, which occurs when the incarcerated hernia is not treated. The blood supply to the small intestine is lost and that section of the intestine may die.
Causes and symptoms of inguinal hernia
The majority of inguinal hernias are caused by an opening in the muscle wall that does not seal as it should before birth, leaving a weak section in the abdomen that tissue can push through and bulge out of when pressure is applied. Hernias are more likely to develop in those who are overweight and in those who do a lot of coughing, lifting, or straining.
The most common symptoms that accompany an inguinal hernia are the presence or a bump in the groin or scrotum, swelling, burning, and heaviness felt around the affected area that may worsen as you lie down. If you experience sudden pain, vomiting, or nausea, your intestine may have become trapped in a hernia and it is important to contact your doctor immediately.
Inguinal hernia treatment
There are different treatment methods for an inguinal hernia. For starters, the doctor may try to massage the fat or intestine back into the abdomen. If this is unsuccessful, then surgery is required.
There are two types of surgery for an inguinal hernia: open hernia repair or laparoscopy. In open hernia repair, an incision is made in the groin to push the protruding tissue back into place and sew up the weakened area. In laparoscopic surgery, several small incisions are made in the abdomen and a tube equipped with a camera is inserted. The surgeon uses tiny instruments to repair the hernia.
Laparoscopic surgery is associated with less scarring and shorter recovery times compared to open hernia repair. On the other hand, laparoscopic surgery may increase the risk of a future hernia developing.
Although you are encouraged to move in order to recover from hernia surgery, your doctor will specify which activities are safe to perform.
Inguinal hernia prevention
It is impossible to prevent an indirect inguinal hernia, but there are steps you can take in order to reduce your risk. This includes maintaining a healthy weight, consuming high-fiber foods, avoiding lifting heavy objects or doing it carefully and with proper form, not smoking, and not relying on supportive gear (known as a truss) to keep the hernia in place, as it does not correct the problem or help lower the risk of complications.
When to call a doctor after inguinal hernia surgery
Notify your surgeon right away if you experience a high fever, bleeding, increased swelling or pain in the abdomen, increasing pain that does not improve with pain relievers, persistent nausea or vomiting, chills, persistent coughing or shortness of breath, increased redness around your incisions, or difficulty urinating.
Inguinal hernia home remedies
Some people may choose to utilize home remedies to treat their hernia, the most common of which include:
- Using ice or a cold compress to numb any pain
- Avoiding putting pressure or heat on the affected area
- Ensuring you get enough rest
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Breaking unhealthy habits like drinking and smoking
- Wearing looser clothes to avoid irritation of the affected area