Inguinal hernia (or groin hernia)

Inguinal hernia is the most common type of hernia. This occurs when part of your bowel squeezes through your lower abdomen into the groin.

Inguinal hernias make up about 70 percent of all hernias, according to the British Hernia Centre (BHC). These hernias occur when the intestines push through a weak spot or tear in the lower abdominal wall, often in the inguinal canal. This type of hernia is more common in men than in women.

The inguinal canal is found in your groin. In men, it is the area where the spermatic cord passes from the abdomen to the scrotum. This cord holds up the testicles. In women, the inguinal canal contains a ligament that helps hold the uterus in place.

For more information on other types of hernias see:

  • Femoral hernia;
Incisional hernia
  • Umbilical hernia;

Hernias are caused by a combination of muscle weakness and strain. Depending on its cause, a hernia can develop quickly or over a long period of time. Factors that strain your body and may cause a hernia, especially if your muscles are weak, include:

  • being pregnant, which puts pressure on your abdomen
  • being constipated, which causes you to strain when having a bowel movement
  • heavy weight lifting
  • fluid in the abdomen, or ascites
  • suddenly gaining weight
  • persistent coughing or sneezing

Inguinal or groin hernias are usually diagnosed through a physical examination. Your doctor may feel for a bulge in your abdomen or groin that gets larger when you stand, cough, or strain. If the diagnosis isn't readily apparent, your doctor might order an imaging test, such as a CT scan or MRI. In some rare instances your doctor may recommend an ultrasound.

Whether or not you need treatment depends on the size of your hernia and the severity of your symptoms. Your doctor may simply monitor your hernia for possible complications. Treatment options for a hernia include:

Lifestyle changes
Dietary changes can often treat the symptoms of a hiatal hernia. Avoid large or heavy meals, don’t lie down or bend over after a meal, and keep your body weight in a healthy range. If these changes in diet don’t eliminate your discomfort, you may need surgery to correct the hernia.

If you have a inguinal hernia, over-the-counter and prescription medications that reduce pain can relieve your discomfort and improve symptoms. Ask your healthcare provider which medicine is right for you. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Should your condition not improve then you may need surgery.

If your hernia is growing or causing pain, your GP may decide that it’s best to operate. Hernias can be repaired with either open or laparoscopic surgery. Laparoscopic surgery uses a tiny camera and miniaturised surgical equipment to repair the hernia using only a few small incisions. Laparoscopic surgery is less damaging to the surrounding tissue.

CT scan

CT stands for ‘computerised tomography’. A CT scan is a detailed X-ray used to create detailed images of the inside of your body.   

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.