Understanding the basics of hernia inguinal

November 12, 2012

Understanding the basics of hernia inguinal

A hernia is a common medical complaint that is the result of the contents of a body cavity bulging out of the area where they are normally contained. These contents, usually portions of intestine or abdominal fatty tissue, are enclosed in the thin membrane that naturally lines the inside of the cavity. There are several types of hernia -

  • Hernia inguinal (inner groin area)
  • Incisional – as a result of an incision
  • Femoral (outer groin)
  • Umbilical (belly button)
  • Hiatus hernia (upper stomach)

Hernia inguinal

This type of hernia involves the protrusion of the intestine or the bladder into either the abdominal wall or the inguinal canal in the inner groin area. Hernia inguinal is more often seen in men due to an inherent weakness they have in the affected area; hernia inguinal account for around 80% of all hernias.

Incisional hernia

This type of hernia occurs at the site of a previous abdominal surgical procedure and is most often seen in those who are inactive following surgery – the elderly and the overweight are at risk of this type of hernia. An incisional hernia differs from a hernia inguinal in that it generally involves the intestine bulging through the abdominal wall. Inguinal hernias may be indirect or direct and appear as a bulge in the affected area.

Femoral hernia

The femoral artery carries blood into the upper thigh and thence into the rest of the leg. A femoral hernia occurs when the intestine bulges into the canal carrying the femoral artery – this type of hernia is common in obese or pregnant women.

Umbilical hernia

As the name suggests this type of hernia occurs around the belly button – the small intestine presses through the abdominal wall in close proximity to the navel. This type of hernia is frequently seen in newborn infants but also affects the obese and women who have had many pregnancies.

Hiatus hernia

This type of hernia is well known due to its side effects of heartburn and acid indigestion. A weakness in the diaphragm allows the upper part of the stomach to squeeze through the hiatus.

Causes of hernia

All hernias are caused by similar factors – a combination of pressure and muscle or fascia weakness. This muscle weakness may have been present since birth, but more generally develops later in life. Lifestyle choices such as poor diet, smoking, obesity and overexertion are all risk factors for hernia as they can all result in poor muscle tone.

Increased pressure in the abdominal area may also result in a hernia developing; this pressure may be the result of overstraining during a bowel movement, lifting heavy objects, diarrhoea, constipation or even persistent coughing and sneezing.


Hernias are very often asymptomatic or may cause some pain – which may be mild or severe. Hernias always have the potential to have their blood supply cut off – becoming strangulated, if this happens it should be considered a medical emergency. As the hernia bulges through the weak spot it has found pressure may constrict the blood vessels in the hernia so cutting off the blood supply.

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