People have a bulge in the groin or scrotum, which may be painless or cause discomfort if it enlarges.
Ultrasonography can be used for diagnosis.
Surgery is done if hernias are in women, cause symptoms in men, or become strangulated or incarcerated.
(See also Abdominal Wall Hernias Abdominal Wall Hernias An abdominal wall hernia is an opening or area of weakness in the abdominal wall through which abdominal contents can protrude. An abdominal wall hernia causes a noticeable bulge but little... read more .)
What Is an Inguinal Hernia?
In an inguinal hernia, a loop of intestine or another abdominal organ pushes through an opening in the abdominal wall into the inguinal canal. The inguinal canal contains the spermatic cord, which consists of the vas deferens, blood vessels, nerves, and other structures. Before birth, the testes, which are formed in the abdomen, pass through the inguinal canal as they descend into the scrotum.
An inguinal hernia extends into the groin and can extend into the scrotum. They are more common among men.
There are two types, direct and indirect, depending on exactly where the hernia occurs.
Other types of hernias (such as umbilical hernias Abdominal wall hernias An abdominal wall hernia is an opening or area of weakness in the abdominal wall through which abdominal contents can protrude. An abdominal wall hernia causes a noticeable bulge but little... read more and femoral hernias Groin hernias An abdominal wall hernia is an opening or area of weakness in the abdominal wall through which abdominal contents can protrude. An abdominal wall hernia causes a noticeable bulge but little... read more ) occur at other locations.
With an inguinal hernia, the opening in the abdominal wall can be present from birth (see Hernia in Children Inguinal Hernia in Children A hernia is a protrusion of a piece of the intestine through an abnormal opening in the abdominal wall. An inguinal hernia occurs in the groin (the inguinal area). A piece of intestine protrudes... read more ) or develop later in life.
Symptoms of Inguinal Hernia
Inguinal hernias usually cause a painless bulge in the groin or scrotum. The bulge may enlarge when men stand and shrink when they lie down because the intestine slides back and forth with gravity. If the hernia enlarges, it can cause discomfort when coughing or changing position.
Sometimes a portion of the intestine is trapped in the scrotum (incarceration), sometimes causing more discomfort or pain. If the intestine becomes trapped, the intestine’s blood supply can be cut off (strangulation). Strangulated intestine may die (become gangrenous) within hours.
Diagnosis of Inguinal Hernia
A doctor's examination
The doctor bases the diagnosis of inguinal hernia on an examination. While the person is standing, the doctor examines the groin and asks the person to cough. Coughing increases pressure in the abdominal cavity. If the person has an inguinal hernia, coughing will cause the hernia to bulge outward, making it easier for the doctor to detect. In addition, in men, the doctor places a finger into a fold on the upper part of the scrotum and pushes upward toward the abdominal cavity to detect a hernia.
Sometimes the doctor does ultrasonography Ultrasound Scanning (Ultrasonography) of the Abdomen Ultrasound scanning uses sound waves to produce pictures of internal organs (see also Ultrasonography). An ultrasound scan can show the size and shape of many organs, such as the liver and pancreas... read more to help make the diagnosis.
Treatment of Inguinal Hernia
Inguinal hernias in women and those that cause symptoms in men should be surgically repaired. In men who have an inguinal hernia that does not cause any symptoms, surgery does not need to be done unless symptoms develop. Surgery can be done at a time that is convenient for the person.
For strangulated and incarcerated hernias, emergency surgery is needed to pull the intestine out of the inguinal canal.