A hernia occurs when an internal part of the body pushes through a weakness in the muscle or surrounding tissue wall.
Your muscles are usually strong and tight enough to keep your intestines and organs in place, but a hernia can develop if there are any weak spots.
An inguinal (pronounced "ingwinal") hernia is the most common type of hernia.
It can appear as a swelling or lump in your groin, or as an enlarged scrotum (the pouch containing the testicles). The swelling may be painful.
The lump often appears when you're lifting something and disappears when you lie down.
For information on other types of hernia, see:
An inguinal hernia usually occurs when fatty tissue or a part of your bowel, such as the intestine, pokes through into your groin at the top of your inner thigh.
It pushes through a weak spot in the surrounding muscle wall (the abdominal wall) into an area called the inguinal canal.
Inguinal hernias occur mainly in men. Most are thought to result from ageing, although they can occur at any age.
This is because as you get older, the muscles surrounding your abdomen (tummy) can become weaker.
Inguinal hernias can sometimes appear suddenly after putting pressure on the abdomen, such as straining on the toilet if you have constipation or carrying and pushing heavy loads.
They have also been linked to having a persistent, heavy cough.
Inguinal hernias can be repaired using surgery to push the bulge back into place and strengthen the weakness in the abdominal wall.
The operation is usually recommended if you have a hernia that causes pain, severe or persistent symptoms, or if any serious complications develop.
Complications that can develop as a result of an inguinal hernia include:
Surgery gets rid of the hernia to prevent any serious complications, but there's a chance it could return after the operation.
There are 2 ways an inguinal hernia repair can be performed:
There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods. The type of surgery you have depends on which method suits you and your surgeon's experience.
You should be able to go home the same day or the day after surgery. It's important to follow the hospital's instructions on how to look after yourself.
This includes eating a good diet to avoid constipation, caring for the wound, and not straining yourself too soon.
Most people make a full recovery from inguinal hernia repair within 6 weeks, although many people can return to driving, work and light activities within 2 weeks.
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An inguinal hernia repair is a routine operation with very few risks. But a small number of hernias can come back at some point after surgery.
Other potential complications of an inguinal hernia repair include:
Complications are more likely if you're aged over 50, smoke or have another illness, such as heart disease or breathing problems.