A hernia occurs where one part of the body, such as an organ, pushes through a weak area of muscle or surrounding wall tissue. An inguinal hernia (groin hernia) occurs when fatty tissue, or part of the bowel, pushes through the abdominal wall into the groin. The area the hernia moves into is called the inguinal canal.

An inguinal hernia, or groin hernia, is the most common type of hernia. It appears as a lump or swelling in the groin, or sometimes in men, the scrotum becomes enlarged.

Hernias are not always painful when they first occur but, if not treated, the weak spot can grow over time. This is potentially dangerous because, if a hernia is not treated, serious complications can develop if part of the bowel protrudes into the inguinal canal, obstructing or strangulating the bowel (strangulated hernia). This is a dangerous condition which requires emergency surgery.

Inguinal hernias occur mainly in men, but they are not uncommon in women. Most inguinal hernias are thought to be caused by ageing (although they occur at any age) because as you become older, your abdominal muscles can become weaker.

Inguinal hernias are sometimes caused by putting pressure on the abdomen, either through carrying or pushing heavy loads, or by straining on the toilet when constipated. Sometimes a hernia may be caused by persistent, heavy coughing.

Inguinal hernias can be sensitive to the touch or painful, but they are most noticeable by their appearance, causing bulging in the groin area. This bulging may get larger when you are standing up, coughing or lifting something heavy, and may reduce or disappear when you lie down.

Other symptoms can include pain during exercise or when coughing or bending over. This pain can sometimes be sharp and accompanied by a burning sensation. There may be swelling in the scrotum and a sensation of fullness or heaviness in the groin.

Symptoms can include:

  • bulging in the groin, may be more noticable when standing
  • pain when exercising, coughing, or bending over
  • burning sensation
  • sharp pain
  • a full or heavy sensation in the groin
  • swelling in the scrotum

Your doctor will be able to diagnose an inguinal hernia after discussing your symptoms and physically examining the area.

Inguinal hernia removal surgery

An inguinal hernia (groin hernia) occurs when fatty tissue, or part of the bowel, pushes through the abdominal wall into the groin at the top of the inner thigh. A bilateral hernia is a type of inguinal hernia that occurs on both sides of the body. The hernia/s can be surgically treated using a ‘keyhole’ technique called laparoscopic repair.

Laparoscopic hernia repair

A minimally invasive key-hole procedure, which requires general anesthesia, the surgeon operates through several small incisions in your abdomen in order to repair the hernia.

What next?

If you are suffering with a suspected condition, you should seek the advice of your doctor who will be able to refer you to Benenden Hospital for diagnosis and treatment.

There are four ways to access treatment at Benenden Hospital which include self-funding, using private medical insurance or your Benenden membership, or through the NHS e-Referral scheme.