What are the symptoms of inguinal hernia?

A hernia, one of the most common reasons for surgery, occurs when part of an organ pushes through the tissue that normally contains it and into other parts of the body. This can happen due to trauma or injury, or simply due to a natural weakness in a wall of tissue. The most common hernias occur in and around the abdomen and involve protrusion of the small intestine. Abdominal and groin hernia symptoms can range from subtle and painless to obvious and crippling.

Hernias that affect the groin can be classified into several subtypes. Direct or indirect inguinal hernias, collectively the most common type of hernias in men and women, occur when tissue from the abdominal cavity pushes through the bottom of the abdomen into the inguinal canal, which is a small tube that houses the spermatic cord or The round ligament in men and women, respectively. In men, the wall that separates the inguinal canal from the abdomen is often a natural weak point due to its relatively large size.

Femoral hernias, while less common overall, are, by contrast, much more likely to affect women. As the name implies, this occurs when tissue from the abdomen pushes into the femoral canal, which is a section of the same compartment that houses the femoral artery, and itself houses a lymph node and other smaller blood vessels.

The other common hernia that affects the groin is technically not a hernia at all. Sports hernia, as is known, can display all of the painful inguinal hernia symptoms associated with an inguinal or femoral hernia, but does not involve an actual protrusion of the small intestine into the groin area. A more accurate medical name for the condition is athletic pubalgia, although the misnomer probably persists because the same types of surgery that repair groin hernias are often effective in resolving sports hernias. A variety of injuries to the groin area, including torn tendons and ligaments, can cause the same type of pain or discomfort as an actual hernia, and is diagnosed as athletic pubalgia.

In addition to vague discomfort in and around the lower abdomen, the first inguinal hernia symptoms people tend to notice are painless bulges on one or both sides of the body, usually a small distance below the navel. Although lumps do not occur in all cases, when they do occur they are a sure sign of a hernia. However, the fact that a bulge is not always visible, coupled with the fact that sports hernias will never give rise to a bulge, can make diagnosis difficult.

Often, a variety of inguinal hernia symptoms must be combined with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine the exact problem. However, even MRIs can be inconclusive, and it is not uncommon for exploratory surgery to be performed without an exact diagnosis. A surgeon will go near the site of any discomfort and look for tears or evidence of a hernia that can be repaired.

Symptoms of inguinal hernia of any kind should be investigated without delay. If not resolved, the blood supply to a part of the protruding intestine can be cut off, an incredibly painful condition known as hernia strangulation or hernia incarceration. Severe vomiting and nausea are also symptoms of a strangulated hernia, in addition to the possibility of testicular damage in men. Although rare due to the fact that pain alone usually results in prompt treatment, gangrene and eventual death can occur if a strangulated hernia is left untreated.

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