(Hernia, Groin—Adult; Hernia, Inguinal—Adult; Inguinal Hernia—Adult; Hernia, Femoral—Adult; Hernia, Femoral—Adult; Femoral Hernia—Adult)
A groin hernia occurs when abdominal tissue or fat pokes out through the abdominal wall. There are 2 main types:
- Inguinal hernia—appears as a bulge in the groin (or scrotum area in men); this is the most common type
- Femoral hernia—appears as a bulge in the groin, upper thigh, (or labia in women)
A hernia can trap a section of intestine, leading to blockage or problems with blood flow. This is called strangulation. It is a medical emergency and requires care right away.
The abdominal wall wraps around your middle from the bottom of your ribs to your pelvis. It helps to contain and support your abdominal organs and tissue. When this area is weakened, these internal tissues can press through can create the hernia. The weakness may be caused by a problem with the abdominal wall development before birth, injuries, or wear and tear of the muscles.
Inguinal hernias are more common in men and femoral hernias are more common in women.
Abdominal wall weakness is more common in older adults. Factors that increase your chance of abdominal wall weakness include:
- Wear and tear on abdominal wall from frequent lifting of heavy objects, or prolonged coughing or straining
- Previous surgery in the abdominal area
- Family history of hernia
- Peritoneal dialysis
Many times, there are no symptoms with groin hernia. In those who do have them, the symptoms may include:
- A bulge in the groin area when standing or straining
- A bulge in the upper thigh area
- Pain in the groin area when straining
- A bulge that may extend into the scrotum in men or the labia in women
- Pain and/or a heavy feeling or discomfort in the groin area
More serious symptoms may need emergency care:
- Severe pain in the groin or abdomen
- Abdominal swelling
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Imaging studies are only done if the diagnosis in not clear by physical exam.
Watchful waiting is an option for those with inguinal hernias who do not have symptoms. This means you and your doctor will monitor your hernia for growth or the appearance of more serious symptoms. Femoral hernias are at higher risk of strangulation. Watchful waiting is not advised, especially for women.
Femoral hernias and inguinal hernias that cause symptoms are repaired with surgery. The abdominal tissue will be pushed back in and the opening will be closed. Sometimes, a mesh material will be placed to help support the area.
The following strategies may help to prevent a groin hernia:
- If you are overweight, lose weight.
- Exercise regularly to keep abdominal muscles strong.
- Learn to lift properly . Ask for help with heavy weights.
- Stop smoking, especially if you have a chronic cough.
American College of Physicians
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Canadian Institute for Health Information
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3/16/2015 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Fitzgibbons RJ Jr, Forse RA. Clinical practice. Groin hernias in adults. N Engl J Med. 2015 Feb 19;372(8):756-763. Available at: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMcp1404068. Accessed March 16, 2015.
Last reviewed January 2015 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.