A groin hernia is abdominal tissue or fat pushing through the abdominal wall. There are 2 main types:
- Inguinal hernia (most common)—appears as a bulge in the groin (or scrotal area in men)
- Femoral hernia—appears as a bulge in the groin, upper thigh, or labia (in women)
A hernia can trap a section of intestine, leading to blockage or problems with blood flow. This is called strangulation. It is a medical emergency and requires care right away.
The abdominal wall wraps around the middle section from the bottom of the ribs to the pelvis. It helps to contain and support abdominal organs and tissue. When this area is weakened, these internal tissues can press through can create the hernia. The weakness may be caused by a problem with abdominal wall development before birth, or result from injuries or wear and tear of the muscles.
Inguinal hernias are more common in men and femoral hernias are more common in women.
Abdominal wall weakness is more common in older adults. Other factors that may increase the chances of abdominal wall weakness:
Many times, there are no symptoms with a groin hernia. In those who do have them, the symptoms may include:
- A bulge in the groin area when standing or straining
- A bulge in the upper thigh area
- Pain in the groin area when straining
- A bulge that may extend into the scrotum in men or the labia in women
- Pain and/or a heavy feeling or discomfort in the groin area
More serious symptoms may need emergency care:
- Severe pain in the groin or abdomen
- Abdominal swelling
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Diagnosis can usually be made during the exam. If the diagnosis is not clear, imaging tests may be needed.
Watchful waiting is an option for those with inguinal hernias who do not have symptoms. This means you and your doctor will monitor the hernia for growth or the appearance of more serious symptoms. Femoral hernias are at higher risk of strangulation. Watchful waiting is not advised, especially for women.
Femoral hernias and inguinal hernias that cause symptoms are repaired with surgery. The abdominal tissue will be pushed back in and the opening will be closed. Sometimes, a mesh material will be placed to help support the area.
To help reduce the chances of a groin hernia:
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
- Review Date: 03/2018 -
- Update Date: 03/16/2015 -