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inguinal hernia

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Site of inguinal hernia

Alternative Names

A hernia occurs when part of an organ is pushed through an abnormal opening in the body. Inguinal hernias, located in the groin, are the most common type of hernia.

What is going on in the body?
With an inguinal hernia, the intestines bulge through a weak spot in the lower abdomen or groin. The intestines may get pushed down into the genital area. When the bulge is just underneath the skin, it can be quite obvious.

What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?
A person who has this condition may notice:
  • a bulge in the lower abdomen or groin that often gets worse when coughing and standing up
  • discomfort or pressure in the abdomen that often gets worse when coughing or standing up
  • abdominal pain, which may be severe
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
Weak tissues in the abdomen cause an inguinal hernia. This weakness may be present at birth or may develop later in life.

What can be done to prevent the condition?
Most hernias can not be prevented, but maintaining proper weight and regular exercise to keep muscles toned may help to prevent a hernia.

How is the condition diagnosed?
This type of hernia is diagnosed through a medical history and physical examination. During the examination, the doctor palpates the groin area. He or she asks the person to cough, which increases pressure on the weak tissues. If a hernia is present, it will often bulge out so that it can be felt.

What are the long-term effects of the condition?
Hernias are often left alone initially and may cause no symptoms. Over time, though, hernias can enlarge and cause more symptoms. When this occurs, treatment is needed.

Usually, the intestines bulges out and then goes back to where it belongs. Sometimes, it can bulge out and get stuck. This is dangerous and can cause great pain. The intestines can become swollen and have its blood supply cut off, which is life-threatening. If this happens, emergency surgery is required.

What are the risks to others?
There are no risks to others.

What are the treatments for the condition?
The main treatment is hernia repair surgery. The goal is to support the weak tissues and prevent the intestines from bulging out of the abdomen.

What are the side effects of the treatments?
Like all surgery, a hernia repair carries a risk of bleeding, infection, and allergic reaction to the anaesthesia. For most hernias, surgery can be done in the morning and the person can go home later that day.

What happens after treatment for the condition?
The person usually needs only a few days to recover. After recovery, he or she generally can go back to normal activities.

How is the condition monitored?
After a full recovery from surgery, no further monitoring is normally needed. If a person does not want to have surgery, repeat physical examinations can be done to see if the hernia is enlarging. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the doctor.

Author: Adam Brochert, MD
Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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