A Hernia is a weakness or split in the muscle wall of the abdomen which allows the abdominal contents (usually some part of the intestine) to bulge out. The bulge is particularly noticeable upon tensing the abdominal wall muscles - such as occurs when coughing, sneezing, straining or simply standing.

When the bulge occurs in the groin area we call it an inguinal hernia. More than 70% of all hernias that occur are inguinal hernias. Men are affected more than women. The origin of the inguinal hernias is in an inguinal canal that in men is a passage way between the abdomen and the scrotum through which the spermatic cord passes. In women the inguinal canal is a passage way for a ligament that holds the uterus in place. Nearly all cases of inguinal hernias in teens are due to a congenital defect of the inguinal canal. Instead of closing tightly, the canal leaves a space for abdominal contents to slide into.

In most hernia cases the diagnosis can be made from clinical finding. Once the patient is complaining about discomfort pain and swelling the doctor can usually see a bulge which indicates a hernia. In a very small percentage of cases if the diagnosis can not be made upon clinical findings then a cat scan can help with the diagnosis. There are some cases that are being diagnosed only on Cat Scan findings and those are typically found when the Cat Scan was done for other reasons. This is especially true for obese patients whose complaints about discomfort and swelling could not be verified on clinical grounds.

Learn More About These Types of Hernias:

What Do Doctors Do?
If you notice a bulge or swelling in your groin, abdomen, scrotum, or thigh, you should talk to your doctor. Sometimes a hernia may also cause sharp or dull pain and the pain may worsen when you are standing.

With most types of hernias, including inguinal, umbilical, epigastric, and incisional, your doctor will be able to see and feel the bulge and diagnose you with a hernia.

Except for umbilical hernias in babies, hernias don't just go away on their own - you must talk to your doctor and receive treatment. Over time, your hernia may become larger and more painful, and in some cases of inguinal hernia or umbilical hernia, a piece of the intestine could become trapped (this is known as incarceration). In a true surgical emergency, the blood supply could be cut off to the incarcerated intestine (this is known as strangulation). This situation is painful and dangerous because it can cause infection and may cause the strangulated tissue to die, so it's important to call your doctor.