A hernia is a weakness or defect in the abdominal wall. Inguinal hernias are common hernias that occur in the groin, near the opening of the inguinal canal. This weakness may be present since birth, or may be acquired with the wear and tear of daily living over several years. These hernias grow larger over time, as the pressure inside the abdomen pushes on the area of weakness. Inguinal hernias can occur on one side or on both sides. They can occur in both men and women, but are more common in men.
Most patients with inguinal hernias first notice a bulge in the groin, sometimes accompanied by discomfort. Occasionally, patients will report a strong, sharp pain in the groin, especially after heavy lifting or strenuous exercise. Hernias can be diagnosed by your doctor or other healthcare provider after listening to your history and performing a good physical examination. Occasionally, radiographic testing is needed to confirm the presence of a hernia.
Over time, hernias get bigger and sometime more painful. As with all hernias, inguinal hernias may become incarcerated, or trapped. If this happens, you won’t be able to flatten the bulge, and you would likely also have very strong pain at the hernia site. This is sometimes accompanied by nausea or vomiting, and the inability to pass gas from the rectum. This is an emergency, and if this occurs, you should contact your doctor or go to the Emergency Room for prompt treatment.
Surgical repair of an inguinal hernia is the best available treatment. Nonsurgical measures, such as a truss, are temporizing measures. In adults, a hernia cannot close on its own. At Mount Sinai, surgical repair of inguinal hernias can be performed laparoscopically or using the traditional open surgery method.
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