Definition

A groin hernia is an external bulge in the groin area that contains fat, connective tissue, and/or a portion of intestine. There are two main types:

  • Inguinal hernia—occurs when there is a weak spot in the area where the abdomen meets the thigh on both sides (most common type)
  • Femoral hernia—occurs less frequently, located in the upper thigh

A groin hernia that pushes through the abdominal wall can trap a section of intestine. This can lead to an emergency where the intestine is blocked or strangled.

Inguinal Hernias

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Causes

Anything that causes weakness or tears in the abdominal wall can cause a groin hernia, including:

  • Defects at birth
  • Prolonged wear and tear (eg, lifting, straining, or coughing)
  • Age-related weakness of the abdominal wall
  • History of previous surgery in the area

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Risk factors include:

  • Advancing age
  • Sex: male (Groin hernias are about 10 times more common in men. But, femoral hernias are more common in women.)
  • Increased pressure within the abdominal cavity due to:
    • Lifting heavy objects
    • Straining to urinate or pass stools
    • Severe or prolonged coughing
    • Obesity
    • Pregnancy

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • A bulge in the groin area when standing or straining
  • Pain in the groin area when straining
  • A bulge that may extend into the scrotum in men
  • Pain, a heavy feeling, or discomfort in the groin (Sometimes there is no pain.)

More serious symptoms may need emergency care:

  • Severe pain in the groin or abdomen
  • Fever
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam.

Treatment

Most inguinal hernias require surgery. If it is a small hernia that can be pushed back into place, an external pad (called a truss) may be worn to provide support. Surgery is usually still needed at some point.

After surgery , hernias sometimes return, either on the same side or the opposite side. Hernia repair can cause pain and disrupt your quality of life, but these complications are rare.

Surgeries include:

  • Herniorrhaphy —to repair the defect in the abdominal wall
  • Hernioplasty—to reinforce the weak area with steel mesh or wire
  • Bowel resection —to remove a section of the intestine, may be used when part of the intestine becomes twisted or blocked or turns gangrenous and dies
  • Laparoscopic hernia repair—done through several tiny incisions in the groin or abdomen, recovery may be faster

Prevention

The following strategies may help to prevent a groin hernia:

  • If you are overweight, lose weight .
  • Exercise regularly to keep abdominal muscles strong.
  • Warm up before exercising to avoid straining your muscles.
  • Learn to lift properly . Ask for help with heavy weights.
  • Wear a protective belt when lifting heavy weights or moving heavy objects.
  • Eat more fiber to prevent constipation .
  • Stop smoking , especially if you have a chronic cough.
  • Talk to your doctor if you:
    • Strain when passing stools or urine
    • Cough or sneeze a lot