What causes an inguinal hernia?
An inguinal hernia usually occurs when fatty tissue or a part of your bowel, such as the intestine, pokes through into your groin at the top of your inner thigh.
It pushes through a weak spot in the surrounding muscle wall (the abdominal wall) into an area called the inguinal canal.
Inguinal hernias occur mainly in men. Most are thought to result from ageing, although they can occur at any age.
This is because as you get older, the muscles surrounding your abdomen (tummy) can become weaker.
Inguinal hernias can sometimes appear suddenly after putting pressure on the abdomen, such as straining on the toilet if you have constipation or carrying and pushing heavy loads.
They have also been linked to having a persistent, heavy cough.
When is surgery needed?
Inguinal hernia surgery is an operation to repair a weakness in the abdominal wall that abnormally allows abdominal contents to slip into a narrow tube called the inguinal canal in the groin region.
Inguinal hernias can be repaired using surgery to push the bulge back into place and strengthen the weakness in the abdominal wall.
The operation is usually recommended if you have a hernia that causes pain, severe or persistent symptoms, or if any serious complications develop.
Complications that can develop as a result of an inguinal hernia include:
- obstruction – where a section of the bowel becomes stuck in the inguinal canal, causing nausea, vomiting and stomach pain, as well as a painful lump in the groin
- strangulation – where a section of bowel becomes trapped and its blood supply is cut off; this requires emergency surgery within hours to release the trapped tissue and restore its blood supply so it doesn't die
Surgery gets rid of the hernia to prevent any serious complications, but there's a chance it could return after the operation.