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Inguinal Hernia: All You Need To Know

Have you noticed any bump around the pubic or groin area and experienced pain in your lower abdomen or groin when bending, coughing, or lifting something? If you have, chances are that you may have developed an inguinal hernia. 

Inguinal hernia is a fairly common condition where part of an internal organ or tissue protrudes through the abdominal muscles. The bulge can be painful, especially when coughing, lifting a heavy object or bending over. Although an inguinal hernia is not considered dangerous if diagnosed early, it can lead to life-threatening complications without proper treatment. The condition doesn’t usually improve on its own, which is why most hernia specialists recommend a medical intervention at the earliest.

Before you get all worried about that odd pain and bulge in your stomach, let us understand more about the condition, its symptoms, diagnosis and treatment to help you make the right decision at the right time.

Understanding Inguinal Hernia

An inguinal hernia usually forms when a part of the small intestine or fat bulges through the lower abdominal wall into the inguinal canal or the groin area. The inguinal canal is a passage in the lower abdominal wall, containing nerves and blood vessels. In men, this region holds the spermatic cord and the testes (before it descends into the scrotum). At the same time, the inguinal canal is the passage for one of the ligaments (round) that supports the uterus in women.

In the case of a hernia through this passage, a painful bump develops which is most noticeable during movement. There are two types of inguinal hernia. Let us learn more about them-

  • Indirect inguinal hernia: This kind of hernia is either formed due to a birth defect with the peritoneal duct failing to close, or can develop in the adult because of weakness of tissues. Parents of infants with indirect inguinal hernias may notice an unusual bulge whenever the baby is crying. Infants with this condition may experience pain as well. In adults with indirect inguinal hernia, the condition is accompanied by a dull ache or a sharp pain, which radiates down the inner thigh or into the scrotum or labia. If the hernia contains bowel loops, the pain may be even more severe and harder to localize. The patient may feel discomfort in the abdomen and/or  pelvic region. The condition may present unique symptoms such as obstruction of the bowel and discoloration of the area of the bulge. This type of hernia can cause bowel strangulation that is life threatening if not diagnosed and treated at the earliest. 
  • Direct inguinal hernias: This kind of hernia is more common in older adults. Men above the age of 40 are found to be more likely to develop a direct inguinal hernia. This hernia is termed ‘direct’ because they protrude through the inguinal wall in a straight fashion, unlike the indirect ones which arise through the deep ring and enter the inguinal canal at an angle. Studies have shown that this kind of hernia is formed as a result of acquired weakness of the transversalis fascia in the Hesselbach’s triangle (a region of the lower, anterior abdominal wall, or groin). Associated symptoms may include bladder outflow obstruction, chronic constipation, bilateral pain. However, as compared to indirect hernias, direct inguinal hernias are less susceptible to strangulation of the bowel as they have a wide neck

There are many reasons why people develop an inguinal hernia. Weak abdominal and groin muscles, family history, premature birth, chronic cough, obesity, and constipation are some of the common reasons.

Additionally, smoking, improper lifting of heavy objects, etc. may also contribute to the development of a hernia.

Common symptoms of Inguinal Hernia

Apart from the warning signs mentioned above, here are some of the common symptoms of inguinal hernia-

  • A noticeable bulge in the groin area may itch, pain, or cause discomfort while straining the abdominal muscles (like lifting things, bending over, exercising)
  • Feeling pressure, heaviness, weakness, or burning sensation in the groin area
  • Men may experience swelling in the scrotum
  • Congenital indirect inguinal hernia may cause babies to have a visible bulge while coughing, crying, or straining during a bowel movement
  • Infants may also appear irritable and suffer from a low appetite.

So, when should you seek help? Although an inguinal hernia is not a very serious condition right from its development, early medical intervention and treatment are essential to prevent complications like incarcerated hernia or strangulation. If you experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms, you should consult with a hernia specialist in Dubai at the earliest.

Diagnosis, treatment, and prevention

If you or your child is experiencing bumps, swelling, pain, or pressure in the groin area, we advise you to visit one of the best surgeon in the country without delay. On consulting with a specialist, you will be asked about lifestyle, family history, and general symptoms you are experiencing. You may be asked to sit erect and cough, putting strain on the abdominal muscles to see if the bulge comes out. Sometimes, your doctor may recommend an X-ray to understand and determine the state of the hernia before prescribing any kind of treatment.

Not all kinds of inguinal hernias require surgery. 

The repair surgery, also known as hernioplasty may be done as an open procedure, laparoscopic repair, or robotic surgery. Here is what you need to know about them-

  • During the open hernia repair, an incision is made in the groin, next to the hernia and the bugle is pushed back into the abdomen. The abdominal wall is then strengthened using meshes or stitches to prevent the issue from recurring. A mesh is used in most cases as it reduces the possibility of tge hernia coming back (recurrence).
  • The laparoscopic procedure is less invasive and requires only small incisions to push the bulge back into place and repair the abdominal muscles. The recovery is faster in this case.
  • Robotic hernia repair has the same advantages of a laparoscopic repair in expert hands.

Generally, if you experienced a hernia once or have a family history, your surgeon may recommend that you should lose weight, improve the strength of core muscles through exercise and quit smoking. Taking special care while lifting heavy objects and including fibrous foods in your diet will also help you to reduce the risk of developing an inguinal hernia in the long run. Women must take special care during their postpartum months to increase the strength of their abdominal muscles, especially if they are diagnosed with diastasis recti, to avoid the possibility of developing a hernia.

Final word

An inguinal hernia is a condition requiring medical attention. As it often appears as an odd bulge in the pelvic or groin area, many people refrain from visiting a doctor out of embarrassment. Although most hernias are nothing serious, they can quickly become complicated. This is why our hernia specialist in Dubai highly recommends a comprehensive consultation at the earliest. So book your appointment today with Dr. Antonio Privetera to get your inguinal hernia checked out today.

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