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What is a Groin Hernia?

By Susan Grindstaff
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

A groin hernia, also called an inguinal hernia, is a medical problem that develops when a part of the intestine bulges through a portion of the abdominal wall in the groin. These hernias typically occur in an area of the abdomen where the muscles have weakened or torn. In some cases, the hernia may only consist of a bulge of fat from the stomach lining, rather than the intestine, but this is considered less common.

There are two different types of groin hernias: indirect and direct. Indirect groin hernias are hernias that people are born with. Direct groin hernias are the result of injury or a general breakdown of the muscles in the groin. It is believed that only males can get groin hernias later in life, though either males or females can be born with the condition.

Males are much more likely to develop a groin hernia while in the womb than female babies. While in the womb, the umbilical cord puts pressure on the groin area of male embryos, weakening that part of the abdomen. The trauma of passing through the birth canal often causes the stomach muscles to tear and a hernia to form. Birth related hernias can occur in females as well, but due to the way the umbilical cord attaches to their stomach, it is not as likely. Babies who are premature are considered at higher risk for a groin hernia, because their muscles may not be fully strengthened.

Groin hernias often result from work or sports injuries, though many activities that put excessive strain on abdominal or stomach muscles may be causative. Coughing, lifting heavy objects, and the strain that comes from frequent constipation are just a few of the things that strain the abdominal and groin muscles. People who are obese are also considered at higher risk for a groin hernia. When a person is overweight, they sometimes carry a great deal of fat in their stomach area. This excess fat puts added strain on muscles and the small intestine, both of which can lead to a groin hernia.

Treatment for groin hernias usually requires surgery. The surgery involves putting the protrusion back into the groin cavity and strengthening the stomach muscles by adding mesh. Recovery can be painful, and in cases of larger incisions, could require several weeks of restricted activity. Some patients may require medication to lessen the pain during the healing process.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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