Generally, Inguinal Hernia is not a life threatening problem but can lead to sudden serious complications at times.This is the reason all hernias need treatment irrespective of the size or severity of the symptoms.
What is Inguinal Hernia?
An inguinal hernia occurs when intestinal or fatty tissue protrudes through a weak spot of the inguinal canal. The inguinal canal is located in the abdomen. The human body, irrespective of gender has an inguinal canal. In men, testes are formed inside the abdomen and before birth pass down to the scrotum through this canal. In women, the inguinal canal is the location for the round ligament of the uterus.
What are the Causes of an Inguinal Hernia?
Several causes of an inguinal hernia are:
- Increasing pressure in the abdominal region and excessive strain due to long standing constipation or urinary obstruction (prostate problem in old age).
- Abdominal wall having an existing weak spot by birth called congenital hernia
- Weakness in the abdominal wall due to any injury or any abdominal surgery
- Composite problem of both increasing pressure and existing weak spot in the abdominal region
- Persistent sneezing or coughing and strenuous physical activities also lead to inguinal hernia.
What are the Symptoms of an Inguinal Hernia?
These are the most frequent symptoms an hernia can cause :
- Formation of the bulge on either side of the groin(the area where the thighs join to the abdomen)
- An aching or burning sensation in the bulge area
- A dragging or heavy feeling in the groin area
- A pressure or weakness in the groin swelling region and feeling of discomfort particularly when bending or lifting any object or coughing
- Protrusion of intestine towards scrotum occasionally causes a tremendous swelling and pain around the testicles
- In case of new born baby with inguinal hernia cry or a cough can cause pain and swelling
- In cases of complicated hernias, the intestine can get twisted and cause pain, vomiting and inability to pass motion or flatus.
What are the Complications of an Inguinal Hernia?
Complications of an Inguinal Hernia Include:
- Pressure on local tissues around a hernia may result in enlargement of a hernia if not repaired surgically in time. Large hernias, particularly in men can move to scrotum creating swelling and pain.
- At the stage of an incarcerated hernia, the contents of it are trapped within the wall of the weak region of the abdomen. At that stage, severe pain occurs, bowel obstruction, nausea or vomiting starts and there can be inability to pass motion and flatus.
- When a hernia is strangulated, it means that the twisting of the intestines has caused a blockage of the blood vessels leading to the rotting of the intestine. This is a life threatening emergency which has to be operated on immediately.
What are the Treatments for an Inguinal Hernia?
How long can one wait before getting treatment?
A hernia is a potentially troublesome problem. Meaning, the contents can suddenly get blocked or twisted making it an emergency situation. Hence all hernias need treatment at the earliest before complications happen. The results of treatment are excellent if done in an elective setting before complications happen. The same is not true for emergency repair of hernias. Hence when one is detected to have a hernia one should get it treated at the earliest.
What are the latest treatment modalities of treatment for hernias?
Hernias classically used to be treated by an open operation where a skin incision is made in the groin and the hernia repaired. This usually entails a week’s rest and return to work after 2 weeks.
In the recent times majority of the hernias are treated laparoscopically thereby avoiding a big cut. The patient is discharged the next day and is fit to resume normal activities of life from the second day itself. The pain is minimal and most people are back at office by a week .This modality of laparoscopic hernia repair has made the entire treatment of hernia more patient friendly and acceptable. it is best done by a skilled laparoscopoic surgeon well versed in all advanced laparoscopic procedures.