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

Written by
Dr. Divya Banu M
and medically reviewed by Dr. Bhavin Bhupendra Vasavada

Published on May 26, 2020   -  4 min read



When a part of your intestine protrudes through weak abdominal muscles, it is called an inguinal hernia. Read the article to know the causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

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

Hernia is basically 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 heavyweights.

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 Symptoms?

A person experiencing inguinal hernia can have the following symptoms:

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

2. Burning pain in the bulge area.

3. There can be pain or discomfort in the groin while bending, coughing or lifting heavyweights.

4. Weakness.

5. 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:

1. Nausea.

2. Vomiting.

3. Fever.

4. Pain.

5. Red or purple hernia.

6. Difficulty in bowel movements and passing gas.

How Is It Caused?

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

1. Too much of pressure within the abdomen.

2. Presence of a weak spot within the abdominal wall.

3. Increased strain during passing bowels or urination.

4. Pregnancy.

5. Increased or strenuous exercise.

6. Coughing or sneezing that is chronic.

Are There Any Risk Factors?

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

1. Being male.

2. Elderly people.

3. Any family history associated with the same.

4. People with chronic cough due to smoking.

5. Constipation that is for a long time.

6. Pregnancy can weaken the abdominal muscles.

7. History of previous inguinal hernia or hernia treatment.

What Are the Complications?

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

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

2. There can be incarcerated hernia, which can obstruct the bowel movement, gas passage, etc.

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

Are There Any Ways to Prevent It?

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:

1. Healthy weight maintenance via diet and exercise that suits you the best.

2. Consumption of high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc.

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

4. Smoking cessation.

What Are the Ways to Diagnose It?

When you visit your doctor, initially there will be a questioning session in which the doctor will ask about your present and past symptoms, personal and medical history followed by physical examination. The physical examination will be focused more in 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:

  • CT scan.

  • Abdominal MRI or ultrasound.

How Can It Be Treated?

Depending on various stages, growth, and symptoms, the treatment might vary. If the hernia is very small and symptomless, the doctor might tell you to go for the wait and watch method. Also, wearing a truss that helps in supporting the abdominal wall muscles and tissues might help. Consult your 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 being carried out include open hernia repair and laparoscopic repair. Open hernia repair is also called herniorrhaphy and is done under local anesthesia and scalpel, and hernioplasty is carried out. Laparoscopy is comparatively less invasive but is done under general anesthesia. Several small incisions are made by the surgeon in the lower abdomen followed by 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.

Will There Be 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:

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

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

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

4. 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.

5. A scar that is painful - Some patients may experience a sharp, tingling pain sensation in a specific area near the incision after its healing.

6. Internal organs injury - This is a very rare complication.

An inguinal hernia is not always dangerous but can lead to severe complications if not treated in the early stages itself. It is necessary to be informed about the signs and symptoms and with the help of online medical platforms, it has become a cakewalk to consult a physician. Hence, ask an expert online to know about inguinal hernia in detail.


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Last reviewed at:
26 May 2020  -  4 min read


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