When a part of the small intestines bulges through a weak area in the lower abdominal muscle the condition is called an inguinal hernia. Sometimes intra-abdominal fat can also bulge through this weak abdominal muscle in the groin area. The groin area is between the abdomen and the thigh. There is an inguinal ring in the groin that opens into the inguinal canal. A protrusion through the inguinal ring is also an iniguinal hernia. An inguinal hernia can happen to anyone at any age. Even young children can develop a hernia. This type of hernia is more common in men than in women however.
There are several types of hernias, but an inguinal hernia is the most common. This type of hernia is so common that there are around 100,000 surgeries done every year to repair them. Literally millions of people have this type of hernia. Aging and physical activity can cause this type of hernia as well as extreme physical exertion. When a lump appears because of an inquinal hernia it is usually painful. The pain will worsen when the person coughs or sneezes. The longer a person has this type of hernia the larger it will become. They do not go away on their own.
There are actually two types of inguinal hernia, the direct and the indirect kind. If the hernia is a direct inguinal hernia it is when the abdominal contents protrude through the weak abdominal muscle area and into the inguinal canal. The indirect kind are the most common.
When men have an inguinal hernia there may be a lump in the testicles. If the lump can not be pushed back it means that the intestine in strangled. This is a very serious condition because it means that the blood supply is cut off and the body part that is protruding into the lump will die. In cases where there is a strangled intestine, the patient will be in a lot of pain and vomiting will be present. If the patient does not get treatment serious complications can arise. The symptoms of an inguinal hernia can include a small bulge in one or both sides of the groin. The bulge usually disappears when the patient is lying down. Men who have this type of hernia may have a swollen scrotum. Sharp pain is usually present and will be worse if the patient strains or lifts something. There may also be a gurgling or burning sensation at the bulge.
If you think you have an inguinal hernia you should go to the doctor for a proper diagnosis. The doctor will do a physical exam and ask you to stand and cough. The doctor will be able to feel the hernia to determine if it is strangled or not. It is quite normal and common for the doctor to massage the hernia back into the abdomen. People who have this type of hernia should have it operated on before it becomes strangled. The surgery can be done on one day and the patient will be able to go back to work or school on the next day. The only precaution after the surgery is that the patient refrains from physical activity for a short time.
The surgery on inguinal hernias is typically done on an outpatient basis. The time needed for recovery is dependent on the size of the hernia and the method used to repair it. Two week is the average length of time for healing after the surgery. If the hernia is repaired by laparoscopic surgery the healing time is even shorter. The patient should not do any lifting until the doctor says it is ok to do so.
Most adults experience discomfort after surgery and require pain medication. Vigorous activity and heavy lifting are restricted for several weeks. The doctor will discuss when a person may safely return to work. Infants and children also experience some discomfort but usually resume normal activities after several days.
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