Inguinal Hernia - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Published: 01st April 2008
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An inguinal hernia, or a groin hernia, is a protrusion (lump) of the small intestine or fatty tissue into the groin through a weakness or tear in the abdominal wall.

When part of an organ protrudes through an abnormal opening or in an abnormal way, this is called a hernia. A groin (inguinal) hernia occurs when part of the intestine bulges through a weak spot in the abdominal wall at the inguinal canal. The inguinal canal is a passageway through the abdominal wall near the groin. Inguinal hernias are up to 10 times more common in men than in women. About one in four men develop a hernia at some point in life.

There are two types of inguinal hernias:

Indirect inguinal hernia - This type of hernia occurs when the internal opening of the inguinal canal, which usually closes around the time of birth, remains open. This allows a portion of the intestine to slip through the inguinal canal. Indirect inguinal hernias often are diagnosed within the first year of life, but may not show up until adulthood. This condition affects between 1% and 5% of normal newborns and up to 10% of premature infants.

Direct inguinal hernia This occurs when a portion of the intestine protrudes through a weakness in the abdominal muscles along the wall of the inguinal canal. These are common in adults, but rarely occur in children.

Causes

Usually, there is no obvious cause of a hernia, although they are sometimes associated with heavy lifting.

Hernias can be seen in infants and children. This can happen when the lining around the abdominal organs does not close properly before birth. About 5 out of 100 children have inguinal hernias (more boys than girls). Some may not have symptoms until adulthood.

In men, an inguinal hernia will commonly develop in the groin, specifically in a region called the inguinal canal. This is where the spermatic cord and blood vessels to the testicles pass out of the abdominal cavity and into the scrotum. A weakness in the abdominal tissues at this point can allow a loop of bowel to pass out of the abdomen by following the path of the spermatic cord (indirect inguinal hernia) or between the opening into the inguinal canal and the pubic bone (direct inguinal hernia).

Symptoms

A person can sometimes feel a hernia as it develops. There may be tenderness or a slight burning sensation in the area where the hernia is developing. Sometimes a person can push the hernia back into place. In other cases, the hernia may just disappear by itself. In still other cases, the hernia cannot be pushed back into place easily.

Exams and Tests

A doctor can confirm the presence of a hernia during a physical exam. The mass may increase in size when coughing, bending, lifting, or straining. The hernia (bulge) may not be obvious in infants and children, except when the child is crying or coughing.

Treatment of Hernia

Treatment tips for Hernia are as follows:

For small, non-strangulated and non-incarcerated hernias, various supports and trusses may offer temporary, symptomatic relief.
There are two surgically procedures available for the treatment of inguinal hernias - open surgery or laparoscopy.
Open surgery is the most common type of treatment, accounting for 95 percent of inguinal repairs.

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