Brief Facts About Hernias
Inguinal hernias are the most common type of hernia. They make up about 70 percent of all hernias. These hernias occur when the intestines push through a weak spot or tear in the lower abdominal wall, often in the inguinal canal.
The inguinal canal is found in your groin. In men, it’s 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.
This type of hernia is more common in men than women. This is because a man’s testicles descend through the inguinal canal shortly after birth, and the canal is supposed to close almost completely behind them. Sometimes, the canal doesn’t close properly and leaves a weakened area prone to hernias.
What are the symptoms of a hernia?
The most common symptom of a hernia is a bulge or lump in the affected area. In the case of an inguinal hernia, you may notice a lump on either side of your pubic bone where your groin and thigh meet.
You’re more likely to feel your hernia through touch when you’re standing up, bending down, or coughing.
Other common symptoms of an inguinal hernia include:
pain or discomfort in the affected area (usually the lower abdomen), especially when bending over, coughing, or lifting
weakness, pressure, or a feeling of heaviness in the abdomen
a burning, gurgling, or aching sensation at the site of the bulge
Other symptoms of a hiatal hernia include:
acid reflux, which is when stomach acid moves backward into the esophagus causing a burning sensation
In some cases, hernias have no symptoms. You may not know you have a hernia unless it shows up during a routine physical or a medical exam for an unrelated problem.
What causes a 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.
Common causes of muscle weakness include:
failure of the abdominal wall to close properly in the womb, which is a congenital defect
damage from injury or surgery
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
lifting heavy weight
fluid in the abdomen, or ascites
suddenly gaining weight
surgery in the area
persistent coughing or sneezing
The factors that increase your risk of developing a hernia include:
a personal or family history of hernias
being overweight or obese
a chronic cough
smoking, which can trigger a chronic cough
Conditions such as cystic fibrosis can also indirectly increase your risk of developing a hernia. Cystic fibrosis impairs the function of the lungs, causing a chronic cough.