An inguinal hernia occurs when a portion of the intestine protrudes through a tear or weakened area in the wall of the lower abdomen. The bulging intestines can be very painful and can result in serious complications. Painful or growing inguinal hernias usually require surgical repair. According to the Mayo Clinic, men are 10 more times more likely to have inguinal hernias than women.
Inguinal Hernia Symptoms
For many women, an inguinal hernia may not cause any symptoms and may be discovered during a routine checkup. Sometimes the hernia may be felt and seen in the lower abdomen on either side of the pubic bone. The bulge is most noticeable when a woman is standing up or when she coughs. An inguinal hernia may cause discomfort or pain in the groin area that may be worse when she coughs, bends or lifts. The hernia may also produce a heavy feeling in the groin area.
Incarcerated Inguina Hernia Symptoms
In some cases the inguinal hernia may become incarcerated, which means that the intestines have become stuck in the abdominal wall. An incarcerated inguinal hernia is a serious problem that requires prompt medical attention. Symptoms of an incarcerated inguinal hernia include fever, nausea and vomiting. Also, the hernia bulge may appear purple, red or dark-colored.
Causes of Inguinal Hernias
In women, the ligament that helps to keep the uterus in place is carried by the inguinal canal. Inguinal hernias usually occur in the area where the uterus's connective tissues attach to other tissues that are around the pubic bone. A hernia may develop over time when a weak spot exists at birth. Inguinal hernias may also be caused by excessive lower abdominal pressure. Such pressure may be caused by pregnancy, obesity, chronic coughing spells, chronic constipation or extreme physical exertion.
Ingunial Hernia Complications
Inguinal hernias are usually not dangerous; however, if they grow large they can cause pain and swelling. More serious complications include incarceration and strangulation of the intestines. Incarceration may lead to bowel obstruction, and strangulation may kill bowel tissues. Strangulation can be fatal; thus, emergency surgery is required.
Diagnosis and Treatment
A family doctor can diagnosis a inguinal hernia; however, a referral to a gastroenterologist will be needed to confirm diagnosis and provide treatment. Small, pain-free hernias are generally left alone until they become bothersome. Hernias are treated with surgical procedures that push the intestines back where they belong and then secure the abdominal wall by either sewing it together or patching it. Inguinal hernia surgeries are usually done laparoscopically in order to reduce post-surgery pain and recovery time.