An inguinal (pronounced “ingwanal”) hernia is the most common type of hernia. The hernia can appear as a swelling or lump in your groin, or as an enlarged scrotum (the pouch containing the testicles). The swelling may be painful. The lump will often appear when you are lifting something and disappear when you lie down.
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 the inguinal canal. The inguinal canal is a channel through which blood vessels to the testicles pass in men and through which the round ligament (the ligament surrounding the womb) passes in women.
Inguinal hernias occur mainly in men. Most are thought to be due to ageing. This is because as you get older, the muscles surrounding your abdomen (tummy) can become weaker.
Inguinal hernias can sometimes appear suddenly due to strain 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.
Inguinal hernias can be repaired using surgery to push the bulge back into place and strengthen the weakness in the abdominal wall. The operation will only usually be recommended if you have a hernia that causes severe or persistent symptoms, or if any serious complications develop.
Surgery will get rid of the hernia and prevent any serious complications, although there is a chance of it returning after the operation.
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