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Quick Facts

Inguinal Hernia


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Mar 2021| Content last modified Mar 2021
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What is a hernia?

A hernia is the bulge of an organ through an opening in the muscle or tissue that holds it in place.

There are many different types of hernias. The most common hernia is a bulge in the wall of your abdomen (belly), called an abdominal wall hernia. The organ causing the hernia is the small intestine.

What is an inguinal hernia?

An inguinal hernia is a common abdominal wall hernia. It appears in the crease of your groin or, if you're a man, sometimes in your scrotum (the sac that holds your testicles).

  • Inguinal hernia is more common in men

  • You'll have a bulge in your groin that may or may not hurt

  • Heavy lifting or straining may make a hernia look bigger but doesn't cause a hernia

  • If part of your intestines gets trapped in your groin or scrotum, it can block blood flow to your intestines and make part of the intestine die

  • Sometimes, doctors treat an inguinal hernia with surgery

What are the symptoms of an inguinal hernia?

Usually, the only symptom of an inguinal hernia is a:

  • Painless bulge in your groin or scrotum

The bulge may get bigger when you stand and smaller when you lie down. Usually you or your doctor can push the bulge back into your belly.

An incarcerated hernia is when a loop of your intestine gets stuck in the hernia. This can cause a blocked intestine.

A strangulated hernia is when your intestine is trapped so tightly that its blood supply is cut off. The part of the intestine that isn't getting enough blood can burst and die and, if not treated, can kill you. A strangulated hernia can cause the following symptoms:

  • Steady pain that gets worse with time

  • Feeling sick to your stomach and throwing up

  • Tenderness of the bulge when touched

  • Sometimes, redness of the skin around the bulge

How can doctors tell if I have an inguinal hernia?

Doctors test for an inguinal hernia using:

While you're standing, the doctor examines your groin and asks you to cough. If you have an inguinal hernia, coughing will make the hernia bulge even more. In men, the doctor places a finger into a fold on the upper part of the scrotum and pushes upward to find a hernia.

How do doctors treat an inguinal hernia?

If you're a man and your inguinal hernia isn't causing symptoms, you don't need treatment.

Doctors do surgery to repair an inguinal hernia if you are:

  • A woman, with or without symptoms 

  • A man with symptoms

If you have a strangulated hernia or an incarcerated hernia, you'll need emergency surgery.

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