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What is an inguinal hernia?

We share critical information about an inguinal hernia.

How common are inguinal hernias and what does treatment involve? 

The NHS explains inguinal hernias are more likely to affect men than women. Although inguinal hernias are thought to occur in response to ageing, they can appear at any age. 

According to the Royal College of Surgeons and the British Hernia Society, surgery to repair an inguinal hernia is a common procedure, with close to 80,000 procedures being performed every year in the UK. We uncover everything you need to know about inguinal hernias.

There are two sub-types of inguinal hernia.

The indirect inguinal hernia occurs predominantly in the young and physically active. This type of hernia can only be fixed by inguinal hernia surgery.

The direct inguinal hernia occurs predominantly in individuals aged over 50 years old. This, too, can be fixed by inguinal hernia surgery or by the use of a hernia belt.

Although we do not know exactly causes inguinal hernias, there are clear risk factors associated to it its development.

These hernias could be caused by a number of factors. A build-up of pressure within the abdomen can push a piece of the intestine through a weak spot in the abdominal muscle.

This pressure can vary from prolonged constipation, swelling of your internal organs (such as the bowels themselves), obesity, or ascites (fluid build-up in the abdomen).

Likewise, pregnancy can cause inguinal hernias in the mother for the same reason.

Having a premature birth means that often your muscle wall is underdeveloped. This makes you more prone to developing inguinal hernias throughout your life, as often the muscle wall does not fully correct itself throughout your life.

Cystic fibrosis can also be associated with the development of an inguinal hernia, but this is most likely due to the life-long symptom of heavy coughing associated with cystic fibrosis.

Engaging in heavy lifting, such as in the gym, in your workplace, or at home, can increase the risk of developing an inguinal hernia. Here, it is important to comply with situational instructions and making sure you take it easy when engaging in these risky activities.

Long-term, chronic, or heavy coughs can shock your intestine into pushing through a weak-spot in your abdomen.

Inguinal hernias have a number of symptoms which can be particularly uncomfortable as they are around the groin. Notably, a bulge will appear around the pubic bone. This bulge, which may become prominent as more intestine bulges through.

This bulge may cause a burning sensation and aches around the area, as the muscles are pushed aside by the piece of intestine. The pain may get worse when you cough, move your hips around, or shift your body weight from standing to bending over, or when lifting objects.

This pain varies from dull to sharp, and it is dependent on the individual in question.

Men may experience pain in their testicles as the loose piece of intestine moves into the scrotal sack. Likewise, for women, there may be a heaviness around the groin and pelvic area.

There may be the experience of weakness in the side of your groin which has the hernia. This may get worse as time progresses.

Inguinal hernias are treated through surgery

Your surgeon will push the bulging tissue back inside and strengthen your abdominal wall with stitches and perhaps mesh.

They might be able to do this through a small cut in your belly using a special tool, a procedure called laparoscopy.

A consultation with one of our experienced Consultants is often the quickest and simplest way to diagnose and treat your hernia.

They will be able to discuss about the best treatment options for your specific situation.

Book an appointment online today.