Dealing with an Inguinal Hernia
Hernias are a common enough problem, especially in men. While approximately 3% of women will develop a hernia, 27% percent of men will develop one. Of the hernias diagnosed, the most common are femoral or inguinal, making up 75 to 80% of hernia cases. While some inguinal hernias may stay the same, if they become strangulated, that can be life-threatening.
What is an Inguinal Hernia?
When an area of the abdominal muscles that normally acts as a buffer between inner tissue and the skin becomes weak, that tissue can protrude through this spot. This could be a part of the intestine, or other tissue, and the protrusion will cause a bulge in the affected area. While not always painful, many inguinal hernias can cause pain, often most pronounced when you bend over, cough, or lift something heavy.
Not all hernias have an obvious cause. Some hernias might be caused by a weak spot in the abdominal wall, pressure within the abdomen might increase, many types of strenuous activity, chronic sneezing or coughing, or even pregnancy.
While not inherently dangerous, an inguinal hernia will also not improve on its own, and will require surgery to see improvement. If not improved, it may get worse, which can cause life-threatening complications. Especially if the inguinal hernia is enlarging or causing pain, it should be looked at and treated as serious.
What Symptoms Should I Look Out For?
Since pain is not a standalone indicator of an inguinal hernia, for adults, keeping an eye on your own body for signs of trouble can help, especially if you have a yearly or more frequent physical, which is typically designed to catch hernias. You should keep an eye out for the following as possible symptoms and signs of an inguinal hernia:
- A bulge on either side of your public bone. The bulge will be more obvious when you are standing upright, and if you cough or strain
- You feel a dragging or heavy sensation in your groin
- Groin discomfort or pain – most significantly if felt when coughing, lifting or bending over
- The bulge has an aching or burning sensation
- Pressure or weakness in your groin
- In men, swelling and pain around the testicles can happen when the intestine descends into the scrotum
There are some more troubling symptoms as well, that will require immediate medical attention. Gentle massage and pressure can push a hernia back in, but if it can’t be pushed back in, it can become strangulated. This is when the contents of the hernia are trapped off inside the abdominal wall. This can be life-threatening if untreated. Keep an eye out for:
- Vomiting, nausea or both
- Sudden pain that intensifies quickly
- Inability to pass gas or move your bowels
- The hernia bulge turns purple, red or dark
Always err on the side of caution with anything that could be life-threatening. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms of a strangulated hernia, seek out medical attention immediately.