An inguinal hernia usually occurs when fatty tissue or part of your intestine pokes through a weak spot in the abdominal muscle in the groin. The area that it manages to push its way into is called the inguinal canal. Inguinal hernias are more common in men than women and the incidence increases with age. However, they are still common in women and can happen to anyone young or old.
Symptoms of Inguinal Hernia
Some common symptoms of an inguinal hernia are:
- A bulge around either side of your pubic bone, which may become more obvious when you’re upright, or when you cough or strain yourself. This bulge is often reducible meaning it can disappear on lying flat and with pressure
- A burning or aching sensation located at the bulge
- Discomfort in your groin, or a heavy/dragging sensation in this area.
- Feeling pressure or weakness in your groin
To help ease symptoms it is advised to eat high fiber food including whole grains, fruits and vegetables. These foods help to avoid constipation, as constipation can worsen the symptoms. It is also recommended that you avoid lifting heavy objects and always bend from your knees and not your waist.
Inguinal Hernia Treatment
The definitive treatment of hernia is surgery. This reduces the risk of bowel entrapment within an untreated hernia which can result in loss of blood supply to the entrapped bowel which can be life threatening. Repair of the hernia also reduces the risk of enlargement and pain from the hernia and allows a return to normal activities
There are two types of surgery that you could undergo to treat your inguinal hernia:
- Laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery– Requires a general anaesthetic but is mostly conducted as a day case. Three small incisions are made, a camera is inserted so that the surgeon can see. The hernia is then pulled back into place through the use of surgical instruments and a repair fashioned using a flat patch (mesh) from the inside
- Open surgery– again mostly performed under general but can be conducted under local anesthetic, meaning you are awake during the procedure, if needed. A cut over the hernia is created, the lump separated from its surroundings and pushed back inside. As in keyhole surgery, a mesh is then used in the area where the abdominal wall is weak, helping to strengthen the area.
If your inguinal hernia isn’t causing pain or discomfort or is only small, your doctor might recommend waiting and watching and possibly offer a truss, which can help to support and relieve symptoms.
Which treatment technique is best?
Both surgeries work well to treat an inguinal hernia and both are safe. Keyhole surgery causes less pain and offers a quicker return to activity. In addition, it reduces the risk of chronic groin discomfort compared with its open surgery counterpart. Your surgeon will determine which type of technique is best suited to you.
After Inguinal Hernia Surgery
If you feel pain after your surgery, seek advice from your doctor about taking painkillers. Try to reduce the risk of constipation by eating a high fiber diet, and remember to keep yourself comfortable. You should be able to do light activities fairly soon after your surgery, along with being able to return back to work.
If you have any worries or concerns after your surgery or feel as though you’re experiencing any sort of pain, you should call your GP or 111.