An inguinal hernia develops once a weakened spot in the groin muscle allows the intestines to protrude. The initial sign of an inguinal hernia is typically an unexplained bulge in the groin region. The condition can be present at birth or develop over time.
It can be hard to determine if a hernia is an inguinal or femoral hernia. The difference is established by the location in relation to the inguinal ligament. If the hernia in the groin region is higher the inguinal ligament, it is called an inguinal hernia. If below the ligament, it is called as a femoral hernia.
In most cases, an inguinal hernia is minor enough that only the peritoneum or coating of the abdominal cavity bulges through the muscular wall. In critical cases, regions of the intestines might even move via the hole in the muscle.
Possible causes of an inguinal hernia
An inguinal hernia is triggered by weakness in the groin muscles. It might be present at birth due to a defect on a small muscle or develop over time. Straining repetitively to have a bowel movement can lead to a hernia as well as straining to urinate which often occurs with prostate issues. Chronic coughing from smoking or lung disease can also contribute to its development.
Additionally, obesity can increase the risk for developing a hernia as well. Cutting down on weight can help prevent a hernia from forming or increasing in size.
Who are at risk?
An inguinal hernia typically develops among men, but present at birth in up to 5% of all children. Women can also develop hernias, but pregnant women face a higher risk for developing the condition.
Management of an inguinal hernia
An inguinal hernia will not heal on its own and does not necessitate surgery to be repaired. Primarily, the hernia might only be a small-sized lump in the groin but can grow bigger over time. It might even appear to grow and shrink during various activities.
The elevated abdominal pressure during certain activities such as straining during bowel movement or sneezing can drive the intestines into the herniated region, thus allowing the hernia grow momentarily.
When it is an emergency?
A hernia that becomes stuck in the “out” position is called an “incarcerated hernia”. This is a usual complication of an inguinal hernia and while it is not an emergency, it must be dealt with medically.
An incarcerated hernia is a medical emergency once it progresses into a strangulated hernia in which the tissue that protrudes out of the muscle is deprived of its blood supply. This can result to death of the tissue that is protruding via the hernia.
A strangulated hernia can be recognized by the intense reddish or purplish hue of the protruding tissue. It can be complemented by intense pain but not always tender. Vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and abdominal swelling might also be present.