A hernia occurs when a bit of soft tissue pokes through a weak spot in the abdominal wall. The most common form of this injury is an inguinal hernia, which occurs when the weak spot of the abdominal wall is in the groin area, causing a bulge in the groin or scrotum. Inguinal hernias do not heal themselves, and will not go away without surgery. However, some inguinal hernias are mild enough to not require surgery.
The tell-tale sign of an inguinal hernia is a bulge in the groin, or in the case of men, possibly in the scrotum. These lumps often disappear when the patient lies down. A hernia lump may arise gradually over the course of days or even weeks, or suddenly after an event that places undue stress on the abdomen, such as heavy lifting, forceful coughing, or laughing. Still common, but not occurring in every case, is pain or discomfort in the affected area. This pain may only be relieved when the patient lies down. Some patients may experience a sensation of heaviness, burning, or tugging in the affected area. If the patient experiences sudden pain, nausea, or vomiting, it may indicate that the hernia has become strangulated, meaning that a part of the intestine has become trapped in the hernia. A strangulated hernia is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate surgery.
The only way to be certain the patient has a hernia is to see a doctor. The doctor may perform a physical exam, gathering a medical history and palpating the area. If this physical exam is inconclusive, the physician may order tests, such as an ultrasound. If a hernia is detected, the physician will assess the severity and work with the patient to determine the best course of action.
If you feel an abnormal bulge in any area of your abdomen or groin, schedule an appointment with your doctor for a proper diagnosis.