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Inguinal hernia - Causes, Symptoms, Prevention, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Inguinal hernia - Causes, Symptoms, Prevention, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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When a part of the intestine protrudes through weak abdominal muscles, it is called an inguinal hernia. Read the article to know in detail about it.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Vasavada Bhavin Bhupendra

Published At May 26, 2020
Reviewed AtApril 4, 2024

Introduction

Hernia is a projection or protrusion of the body part. An inguinal hernia refers to a protrusion of tissue, especially a part of the intestine via a weak area within the muscles of the abdomen. This protrusion can be painful, especially during coughing or while lifting heavy weights. It is not a life-threatening situation but can lead to complications if not treated, as it does not regress on its own.

What Are the Types of Inguinal Hernia?

Inguinal Hernias are mainly of two types, indirect and direct inguinal hernias. Indirect one occurs mostly in men, but can also affect both males and females. This type of hernia develops in males because the testis grow inside the abdomen and reach the scrotum via an opening in the groin which, if not closed at the time of birth, allows the development of hernias. In females, direct hernias occur due to some weakness in the muscles of the abdomen, that may cause the reproductive organs to slip into the groin area.

Direct hernias are commonly seen only in males and they usually occur due to weakness in the muscles of the abdomen

What Are the Symptoms of Inguinal Hernia?

A person experiencing inguinal hernia can have the following symptoms:

  • A bulge can be seen on both sides of the pubic bone which becomes very obvious when the person is standing upright or while coughing situations.

  • Burning pain in the bulge area.

  • There can be pain or discomfort in the groin while bending, coughing, or lifting heavy weights.

  • Weakness.

  • Pressure in the groin.

Children and newborns can have this type of hernia due to the weakness of the abdominal wall. He or she will be irritated and the appetite can also be affected.

Hernia, if it gets strangulated, can become life-threatening and the signs and symptoms of a strangulated hernia include:

  • Nausea.

  • Vomiting.

  • Fever.

  • Pain.

  • Red or purple hernia.

  • Difficulty in bowel movements and passing gas.

How Is Inguinal Hernia Caused?

Some of the patients do not usually have a very defined cause, but the rest cases can have any of the following causes:

  • Too much pressure within the abdomen.

  • Presence of a weak spot within the abdominal wall.

  • Increased strain during passing bowels or urination.

  • Pregnancy.

  • Increased or strenuous exercise. Coughing or sneezing that is chronic.

Are There Any Risk Factors Associated With Inguinal Hernia?

Yes, the following contribute to the risk factors of developing an inguinal hernia:

  • Being male.

  • Elderly people.

  • Any family history associated with the same.

  • People with chronic cough due to smoking.

  • Constipation is for a long time.

  • Pregnancy can weaken the abdominal muscles.

  • History of previous inguinal hernia or hernia treatment.

What Are the Complications of Inguinal Hernia?

The following complications can be observed in case inguinal hernia is not treated:

  • There can be excessive pressure on the surrounding tissues, like on the scrotum in men leading to pain and swelling.

  • There can be an incarcerated hernia, which can obstruct bowel movement and gas passage.

  • There can be strangulation that can lead to even death of the patient.

What Are the Ways to Diagnose Inguinal Hernia?

When one visits the doctor, initially there is a questioning session in which the doctor will ask about the present and past symptoms, and personal and medical history followed by a physical examination. The physical examination will be focused more on the groin area, more specifically in standing or coughing position or movement.

After this, if the diagnosis cannot be confirmed and need any further confirmation test, the following imaging tests will be carried out:

  • Computed tomography scan.

  • Abdominal MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or ultrasound.

How Can Inguinal Hernia Be Treated?

The treatment usually depends on various stages, growth, and varying symptoms of the condition. If the hernia is very small and symptomless, the doctor might tell the person to go for the wait-and-watch method. Also, wearing a truss that helps support the abdominal wall muscles and tissues might help. Thus, one should consult the physician before using it, as it should fit properly to give good results.

Large painful hernias need surgery to give relief to the patient from the pain or discomfort, and also to prevent any serious complications.

The two types of surgeries are being carried out. These include:

  • Open Hernia Repair: It is also called herniorrhaphy and is done under local anesthesia and a scalpel, and hernioplasty is carried out.

  • Laparoscopy: It is comparatively less invasive but is done under general anesthesia. Several small incisions are made by the surgeon in the lower abdomen followed by the insertion of a laparoscope which helps in visualizing a magnified image of the surgical site which helps in performing the surgery in a much better way as even minor details are not missed.

People undergoing laparoscopic surgery usually experience lesser recovery time but in case the hernia is very large, then laparoscopic surgery is not a good option. Also, in patients with a history of pelvic surgery, it is avoided.

Are There Any Complications After Surgery?

Usually, the surgery is very safe and complications are less. But, the information on potential complications should be available to the patients so that they can contact the surgeon in case any of the complications occur. The following are the potential complications:

  • General Anesthesia Risks - The complications associated with general anesthesia are seen more in elderly and immune or medically compromised patients.

  • Recurrence of Hernia - It is the most common complication leading to the need for a second operation in patients.

  • Bleeding - Another complication witnessed is bleeding, and it can lead to swelling and bluish discoloration of the skin surrounding the surgical incision.

  • Infection of the Wound - It has fewer chances but the occurrence rate is higher in the elderly and the patients who have undergone repair of a complex hernia.

  • A Painful Scar - Some patients may experience a sharp, tingling pain sensation in a specific area near the incision after its healing.

  • Internal Organ Injury - This is a very rare complication.

Are There Any Ways to Prevent Inguinal Hernia?

The family history people cannot do anything, as it is a congenital defect. Although strain reduction on the abdominal muscles and tissues can be done through the following:

  • Healthy weight maintenance via diet and exercise that suits the person.

  • Consumption of high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

  • Carefully lifting heavy objects or better avoiding lifting heavy objects.

  • Smoking cessation.

Conclusion

An inguinal hernia is not always dangerous but can lead to severe complications if not treated in the early stages. It causes pain and discomfort to a person and thus needs timely medical attention. Therefore, one must consult a doctor if they experience any signs and symptoms of inguinal hernia.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

Can an Inguinal Hernia Heal on Its Own?

An inguinal hernia is a soft bulge in the groin area. It will not heal on its own if left untreated, and it can be cured only by surgical intervention or non-surgical procedures like wearing a binder, truss, or a corset. If not treated, it can lead to severe complications.

2.

What Are the Ways To Reduce an Inguinal Hernia?

There are surgical and non-surgical ways to reduce an inguinal hernia. In non-surgical procedures, cold compression can be given, or a binder, corset, or truss can be worn; in surgical method, open or laparoscopic surgery can be done. In the open method, the surgeon will push the bulging herniated tissue back into the abdomen. Laparoscopic surgery can be done when the hernia is small and easily accessible.

3.

What Will Happen if an Inguinal Hernia Is Left Untreated?

When the inguinal hernia remains untreated for a long time, it can lead to obstruction and strangulation. Strangulation is the loss of blood supply to the intestine or the organ due to the hernia's enlargement. This may cause the part of the intestine or the organ to rupture or to become gangrenous.

4.

Does All Types of Inguinal Hernias Require Surgery?

An inguinal hernia cannot cure on its own, and if it is a very small hernia, the physician can push it back into the abdomen by massaging or by various non-surgical methods. But if the hernia is huge and inflamed, it must be treated only by a surgical approach.

5.

How to Prevent an Inguinal Hernia from Getting Worse?

Inguinal hernia can be prevented from getting worse by not carrying heavy objects, avoiding strenuous exercises or activities, and holding the hernia while coughing, urinating, or defecating.

6.

How Can a Hernia Be Shrunk Naturally?

A hernia can be shrunk naturally by self-massaging it twice daily, strengthening the abdominal muscles, compressing it with ice packs, wearing a hernia belt, and maintaining body weight.

7.

Is Hernia Surgery Painful?

The incision made during the hernia surgery will be sore for a few days and you might have swelling. Pain will reduce, for most, as the site of surgery heals. But in some, postoperative chronic pain, difficulty breathing, urine retention, bloating, bleeding, infection, and recurrence of hernia can occur.

8.

How to Recover Fast From an Inguinal Hernia Surgery?

To recover fast from an inguinal hernia surgery, you need to,
- Apply an ice pack every two hours to reduce the symptoms of pain and swelling.
- Avoid straining the surgical spot by covering the incision with a pillow while sneezing, coughing, urinating, and defecating.
- Use stool softeners to prevent constipation.
- Walk a little, as it may improve blood circulation to the abdomen and promote healing.
- Avoid lifting heavy objects.

9.

Is It Advisable to Walk after Inguinal Hernia Surgery?

A little walking without giving stress to the incision area will improve blood circulation to the abdominal muscles, which, in turn, promotes healing. Therefore it is advisable to walk after inguinal hernia surgery.

10.

What Conditions Mimic an Inguinal Hernia?

The symptoms of inguinal hernia can sometimes be mistaken for an abdominal hernia or a groin pull or strain.
Dr. Vasavada Bhavin Bhupendra
Dr. Vasavada Bhavin Bhupendra

Surgical Gastroenterology

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