A hernia is a relatively common and non-threatening condition wherein an internal organ, tissue or fat bulges outward through a muscle. A hernia where intestines or abdomen fat might find a weak spot in the abdominal wall to protrude through the groin area is an inguinal hernia. This condition typically manifests in two ways:
- Indirect Inguinal Hernia: Is mostly congenital. It is a protrusion through the inguinal ring into the groin.
- Direct Inguinal Hernia: Occurs mostly in Adult men due to old age, stress and weakened abdominal muscle wall.
An inguinal hernia is ten times more likely to occur in male adults of over 40 years of age. Although not dangerous, the condition can be painful and is known to cause considerable discomfort.
An inguinal hernia is rather easy to spot by appearance: a bulge in the groin area that is usually accompanied by shooting pain while coughing, lifting heavy things, bending, squatting or during bowel movements. The symptoms might also include weakness in the muscles or a burning sensation in the groin area.
Men are at a higher risk of suffering from an inguinal hernia, with about one in four males prone to developing this condition. The factors that increase the chances of developing inguinal hernia include:
- Weak muscles due to advancing age wherein men above the age of 40 are at a higher risk
- Weak muscles due to a previous surgery
- ‘Smoker’s Cough’ weakening the abdominal walling
- Having close relatives who have had this condition
It is time to consult a doctor if and when you feel a bulge in the groin area, whether or not it is painful. If the hernia is still a small bulge and not causing pain at the moment, your doctor may typically recommend observing it for a while before opting for surgery. Wearing a doctor-approved supportive truss can help prevent the hernia from worsening.
An enlarged or painful hernia calls for immediate surgery to return the protruding tissues to the abdominal cavity, and to repair and strengthen the weak abdominal wall. A synthetic mesh might be used to reinforce the abdominal wall.
There are two common types of operations to treat this condition:
- Open hernia repair: During this procedure, your surgeon will make a large incision over the affected area to perform surgery. The recovery period is usually a couple of weeks.
- Laparoscopy: Laparoscopic repair offers relatively lesser discomfort and minimal scarring. Multiple small abdominal incisions are made over the affected area, after which your doctor will insert a long tube carrying a camera. This helps the doctor perform the surgery inside the body. Although this method offers a shorter recovery period, it often carries the risk of a recurrence of inguinal hernia.
At times the contents may be trapped in the hernia wall, causing it to be incarcerated or strangulated. Symptoms may be nausea, vomiting, fever, color changes of the bulge, sudden pain. These complications need immediate intervention.
Early treatment is known to cure inguinal hernia and prevent further occurrences. Do remember that in the hands of a skilled surgeon, surgery for inguinal hernia has high success rates. However, a visit to the doctor is imperative, since the hernia won’t go away on its own. It is best to be vigilant about your body and seek medical help as soon as you notice something out of the ordinary.