Inguinal hernia: symptoms and causes

An inguinal hernia is the protrusion of a part of the intestine, through an opening in the abdominal wall in the groin. This type of hernia is the most common, affecting men more often than women. In men, the inguinal canal is a passageway for the spermatic cord and blood vessels leading to the testicles. For women, the inguinal canal contains the round ligament that supports the uterus.

Therefore, in this article, you will be able to find all the information required to know the symptoms and causes of this disease. In addition, the measures to be taken into account for its prevention are also specified.

What is an inguinal hernia?

A hernia occurs when an organ or part of it protrudes from the cavity that contains it and passes through the layers of the abdominal wall. For the specific case of inguinal hernias, they are bumps in the groin. This type of hernia is usually more common in men and can develop down to the scrotum.

Types of inguinal hernia

The types of inguinal hernia are as follows:

Direct hernia

It occurs at the end of the muscle, just next to the opening of the inguinal canal. Similarly, it occurs in men over 40 years of age due to aging or injury.

Indirect hernia

It originates when a part of the intestinal organ exerts pressure against the inguinal canal. This type of hernia could occur in both men and women. Also, it is likely to be present in young children.

There are other types of hernia such as: umbilical, femoral, post-surgical, among others. But these appear in other regions of the abdominal wall. They are less frequent in the population and their diagnosis and treatment is similar to that of an inguinal hernia.

What symptoms does a person with an inguinal hernia have?

Some patients have no symptoms, usually the presence of such a hernia is discovered during a routine examination.

However, the symptoms that some patients may present are:

  • A lump in the area on either side of the pubis.
  • Mild pain in the groin on exertion.
  • In some cases, when the hernia increases, it will get stuck inside the hole and the patient will present nausea, vomiting. You may also not be able to pass gas or have a bowel movement.
  • Burning or pain in the area of ​​the lump.
  • When the protruding part of the intestine descends into the scrotum, there is pain and swelling in the area of ​​the testicles.

Common symptoms in children

Inguinal hernias in children and newborns originate at birth from a weakness in the abdominal wall. Some of the symptoms that may present are:

  • The hernia is visible only when the child cries, coughs, or strains during a bowel movement.
  • Irritability.
  • Loss of appetite

In the event that the hernia cannot be pushed in, an incarcerated or strangulated hernia would occur, which interrupts the blood flow to the trapped tissue. If this condition is not treated it could be fatal.

The symptoms that would appear in a patient with a strangulated hernia are:

  • Fever.
  • Unexpected pain that increases with speed.
  • Nausea and / or vomiting.
  • The hernia lump turns reddish, purplish, or dark in color.
  • You are not able to have a bowel movement or pass gas.

What are the causes of inguinal hernia?

Most inguinal hernias do not have an original cause, but others can be generated as a result of:

  • Straining when having a bowel movement or urinating.
  • Elevated pressure within the abdomen.
  • Weakness in the abdominal wall.
  • Strenuous activities
  • Chronic cough.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Muscle weakness or deterioration from age, physical exertion, or a cough caused by smoking.
  • Congenital defects.

Risk factor’s

The risk factors that can cause a hernia of this type are:

  • Family background.
  • Being male.
  • Be over 40 years old.
  • The pregnancy.
  • Chronic cough, such as smoking.
  • Chronic constipation.
  • Premature birth.
  • Low birth weight
  • Previous inguinal hernia.

Inguinal hernia diagnosis

The treating physician may see or feel the hernia during a routine physical examination. Typically, the patient is asked to cough, bend over, or pick up an object.

In the case of newborns and children their identification is difficult. If during the physical examination the hernia is not visible but its existence is suspected, an ultrasound should be performed to confirm the diagnosis and determine its location. In the case of a bowel obstruction, the study that is required is an x-ray of the abdomen.

What treatment should be followed?

The only treatment that allows the patient a permanent recovery is surgery, unless the person suffers from a serious health problem.

Through surgery, the weakened tissue is repaired and any holes are closed. In this sense, this procedure is currently performed through patches of synthetic fabrics that resemble a mesh.


Among the complications that can arise in a patient with groin protrusion are:

Incarcerated hernia

It occurs when the contents of the hernia get stuck in the abdominal wall. In this way, obstructing the intestine and generating severe pain, nausea, vomiting and the inability to eliminate gas.

Pressure on nearby tissues

It usually happens when the hernia increases in size by not being treated surgically. For men, the hernia would extend into the scrotum, causing pain and inflammation.


This type of complication can lead to the death of intestinal tissues and requires urgent surgery.

Prevention measures

Some measures that you should take into account to prevent an inguinal hernia are:

  • Avoid obesity.
  • Add foods with abundant fiber in your diet such as: fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Do not lift heavy objects or use correct posture when doing so.
  • No Smoking.

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