Definition

A groin hernia occurs when abdominal tissue or fat pokes out through the abdominal wall. There are 2 main types:

    
  • Inguinal hernia—appears as a bulge in the groin (or scrotum area in men); this is the most common type
  • Femoral hernia—appears as a bulge in the groin, upper thigh, (or labia in women)
  • A hernia can trap a section of intestine, leading to blockage or problems with blood flow. This is called strangulation. It is a medical emergency and requires care right away.

    Inguinal Hernias

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    Causes

    The abdominal wall wraps around your middle from the bottom of your ribs to your pelvis. It helps to contain and support your abdominal organs and tissue. When this area is weakened, these internal tissues can press through can create the hernia. The weakness may be caused by a problem with the abdominal wall development before birth, injuries, or wear and tear of the muscles.

    Risk Factors

    Inguinal hernias are more common in men and femoral hernias are more common in women.

    Abdominal wall weakness is more common in older adults. Factors that increase your chance of abdominal wall weakness include:

        
  • Obesity
  • Wear and tear on abdominal wall from frequent lifting of heavy objects, or prolonged coughing or straining
  • Previous surgery in the abdominal area
  • Family history of hernia
  • Peritoneal dialysis
  • Symptoms

    Many times, there are no symptoms with groin hernia. In those who do have them, the symptoms may include:

        
  • A bulge in the groin area when standing or straining
  • A bulge in the upper thigh area
  • Pain in the groin area when straining
  • A bulge that may extend into the scrotum in men or the labia in women
  • Pain and/or a heavy feeling or discomfort in the groin area
  • More serious symptoms may need emergency care:

        
  • Severe pain in the groin or abdomen
  • Fever
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diagnosis

    You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Imaging studies are only done if the diagnosis in not clear by physical exam.

    Treatment

    Watchful waiting is an option for those with inguinal hernias who do not have symptoms. This means you and your doctor will monitor your hernia for growth or the appearance of more serious symptoms. Femoral hernias are at higher risk of strangulation. Watchful waiting is not advised, especially for women.

    Femoral hernias and inguinal hernias that cause symptoms are repaired with surgery. The abdominal tissue will be pushed back in and the opening will be closed. Sometimes, a mesh material will be placed to help support the area.

    Prevention

    The following strategies may help to prevent a groin hernia:

        
  • If you are overweight, lose weight.
  • Exercise regularly to keep abdominal muscles strong.
  • Learn to lift properly . Ask for help with heavy weights.
  • Stop smoking, especially if you have a chronic cough.