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Inguinal Hernia

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.

What is an inguinal hernia?

An inguinal hernia happens when organs or abdominal tissue push through a weak spot in the abdominal wall. The abdominal wall is made of fat and muscle. It holds the intestines in place. The hernia may contain fluid, tissue from the abdomen, or part of an organ (such as an intestine).

Inguinal Hernia

What causes an inguinal hernia?

The cause of your hernia may not be known. You may have been born with a weak spot or opening in the abdominal wall. The area may have become weak from surgery or an injury. You may get a hernia after you lift something heavy or strain during a bowel movement. Your risk for a hernia may be increased if you smoke or you are overweight. Inguinal hernias are more common in males. A family history of hernias increases your risk for an inguinal hernia.

What are the signs and symptoms of an inguinal hernia?

A hernia may happen over time or it may happen suddenly. Some movements can make symptoms worse. Examples include when you cough, sneeze, strain to have a bowel movement, lift, or stand for a long time. You may have any of the following:

  • A soft lump or bulge in your groin, lower abdomen, or scrotum
  • Pain or burning in your abdomen

How is an inguinal hernia diagnosed?

You may be asked to bend or cough to see if your healthcare provider can feel your hernia. You may need blood or urine tests to check your kidney function or find signs of infection. X-ray, MRI, CT scan, or ultrasound pictures may show blockage in the intestines or lack of blood flow to organs. You may be given contrast liquid to help the organs show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is an inguinal hernia treated?

  • A manual reduction of the hernia may be needed. Manual reduction means your healthcare provider uses hands to put firm, steady pressure on your hernia. Your provider will continue until the hernia disappears inside the abdominal wall.
  • Surgery may be needed if the hernia stops blood flow to any of the organs. Surgery may also be needed if the hernia causes a hole in the intestines, or blocks the intestines.

How can I manage my symptoms and prevent another hernia?

  • Do not lift anything heavy. Heavy lifting can make your hernia worse or cause another hernia. Ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to lift.
  • Drink liquids as directed. Liquids may prevent constipation and straining during a bowel movement. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
  • Eat foods high in fiber. Fiber may prevent constipation and straining during a bowel movement. Foods that contain fiber include fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, and whole grains.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, weight loss may prevent your hernia from getting worse. It may also prevent another hernia. Talk to your healthcare provider about exercise and how to lose weight safely if you are overweight.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can weaken the abdominal wall. This may increase your risk for another hernia. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Take NSAIDs as directed. NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have severe abdominal pain with nausea and vomiting.
  • Your abdomen is larger than usual.
  • Your hernia gets bigger or is purple or blue.
  • You see blood in your bowel movements.
  • You feel weak, dizzy, or faint.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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