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What are Groin Hernia Symptoms?

By Mike Howells
Updated May 17, 2024
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A hernia, one of the most common reasons for surgery, occurs when part of an organ breaks through the tissue normally containing it, and intrudes on other parts of the body. This can happen due to a trauma or injury, or simply because of a natural weakness in a tissue wall. The most common hernias occur in and around the abdomen and involve protrusion of the small intestine. Abdominal and groin hernia symptoms can range from subtle and pain-free to obvious and crippling.

Hernias affecting the groin can be categorized into several subtypes. Direct or indirect inguinal hernias, collectively the most common type of hernias in both males and females, occur when tissue from the abdominal cavity push through the bottom of the abdomen into the inguinal canal, which is a small tube that houses either the spermatic cord or the round ligament in men and women, respectively. In men, the wall separating the inguinal canal from the abdomen is often a natural weak point because of its relatively large size.

Femoral hernias, though less common overall, are by contrast much more likely to affect women. As their name suggests, these occur when tissue from the abdomen pushes through into the femoral canal, which is a section of the same compartment that houses the femoral artery, and itself houses a lymph node and other, smaller blood vessels.

The other common hernia affecting the groin is actually not technically a hernia at all. The sports hernia, as it is known, can display all the painful groin hernia symptoms associated with an inguinal or femoral hernia, but involves no actual protrusion of small intestine into the groin area. A more accurate medical name for the condition is athletic pubalgia, though the misnomer persists likely because the same types of surgery that fix groin hernias are often effective in resolving sports hernias. A variety of injuries in the groin area, including torn tendons and ligaments, can result in the same kind of pain or discomfort as an actual hernia, and are diagnosed as athletic pubalgia.

Aside from vague discomfort in and around the lower abdomen, the first groin hernia symptoms people tend to notice are painless bulges on one or both sides of the body, generally a small distance below the belly button. Though bulges do not occur in all cases, when they do present they are a sure sign of a hernia. That a bulge is not always visible, coupled with the fact that sports hernias will not ever result in a bulge, can make diagnosis tricky however.

Often, a variety of groin hernia symptoms must be coupled together with an magnetic resonance image (MRI) to determine the exact problem. Even MRIs can be inconclusive though, and it is not uncommon for exploratory surgery to be undertaken without an exact diagnosis having been made. A surgeon will go in near the site of any discomfort and look for tears or evidence of hernia that can be repaired.

Groin hernia symptoms of any sort should be investigated without delay. If left unresolved, some length of protruding intestine can have its blood supply cut off, an incredibly painful condition known as hernia strangulation or hernia incarceration. Vomiting and severe nausea are also symptoms of a strangulated hernia, in addition to the possibility of testicular damage in men. Though rare due to the fact that the pain alone usually results in rapid treatment, gangrene and eventual death can occur if a strangulated hernia is left untreated.

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Discussion Comments
By anon323808 — On Mar 06, 2013

A bulge and gastric issues like acid reflux and vomiting are clear indicators of a abdominal hernia. It is better to visit a hernia clinic than rely on self treatment.

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