Inguinal hernia is a condition wherein part of the tissue in the abdominal area sticks out through a weak point in the abdominal muscles. This protrusion can be a small section of the the lining of the abdominal cavity or a part of the intestine. On its own, inguinal hernia is not dangerous, although certain complications may become life-threatening. Since this condition does not get better or go away on its own, it is very likely for a doctor to recommend having the protrusion surgically dealt with. This is especially true if the hernia is painful or gets bigger.
Signs and Symptom
A bulge in either side of your pubic bone is noticeable when you have inguinal hernia. It becomes even more pronounced when you are standing up, especially when coughing or straining.
Usually, this protrusion can be pushed back into the abdominal cavity especially when you are lying down. Some people with inguinal hernia apply ice pack on the bulge prior to pushing it back with their fingers in order to manage the accompanying swelling and inflammation.
Other signs and symptoms of inguinal hernia include:
- Gurgling or aching sensation at the site of the protrusion
- Pressure or weakness in the groin area
- Pain in the groin area especially when straining, coughing, lifting or bending over
A male with inguinal hernia may experience pain in the testicular area. This is an indicator that the condition brought about by a protruding part of the intestine has descended into the scrotum.
It is possible for you to have inguinal hernia and experience none of the symptoms mentioned above. You might not know that you have the condition until your doctor discovers it while performing routine physical examination.
Causes and Risk Factors
Some people suffer from inguinal hernia because their abdominal lining failed to close properly, thus causing a weak spot in the area through which soft tissues in the abdominal area may protrude. Some individuals develop the condition due to the eventual weakness or deterioration of the muscles in the abdomen, usually due to aging, excessive or intense physical activity, or something as simple as coughing, especially among smokers.
In men, inguinal hernia usually happens because of the presence of a weak spot in the so-called inguinal canal through which the spermatic cord enters the scrotum. In male babies, sometimes this inguinal canal does not close enough, allowing a part of the intestine to get past it, causing a hernia.
Risk factors for inguinal hernia include:
- Family history
- Being male
- Chronic cough or constipation
- Premature birth
- Certain health conditions or occupations
Treating inguinal hernia through surgery is often recommended by a doctor as it may lead to certain complications, and some of them can be life-threatening. For instance, blood flow to the part of the protruding intestine may be cut off, causing the death of the affected tissue. This is something very serious and requires immediate surgery.
A small inguinal hernia that does not produce bothersome symptoms may not require surgery, although monitoring it is important. That’s because surgically treating it is essential if it becomes larger as it may cause a lot of discomfort and complications.
There are a couple of types of surgery that may be performed: open hernia repair (herniorraphy) and laparoscopic repair, which is a minimally invasive procedure. However, laparoscopic repair may not be an option if the hernia is really large or a part of the intestine is pushed through the inguinal canal.
The following are some diet recommendations to help ease the pain that accompanies inguinal hernia:
- Eat 5 to 6 light meals throughout the day to keep the digestive system from working too hard.
- Opt for high-fiber foods.
- Spicy foods should be avoided.
- Drinking alcohol, caffeinated beverages and fizzy drinks is a no-no.
- Steer clear of anything that’s acidic and high in fat.
- Provide a 2- to 3-hour gap between your last meal and bedtime.
- Chamomile, slippery elm and aloe vera juice are known to help reduce the symptoms.