Types of Inguinal Hernias: What You Need to Know

What Is An Inguinal Hernia?

The anatomy term inguinal is an adjective that means “in the groin” so the terms groin hernia and inguinal hernia are used interchangeably. These hernias are the most common types of hernia and are more often found in men although women can also experience inguinal hernias.

Hernias can develop in different areas of the body and are a result of a weakness in the abdominal wall. Strain or pressure can cause belly fat or a portion of the intestinal loop to be pushed out through a weak area in the lower abdomen forming the hernia.


Indirect vs Direct Types of Inguinal Hernias

Indirect Inguinal Hernia

Usually, these hernias are present from birth and occur more frequently in male children who are premature. Usually, babies are born with the inguinal canal fully closed, but when the canal is not fully formed and not properly closed before birth it can result in a hernia.

An opening is left in the baby’s abdomen and some of the baby’s intestines can protrude through the opening. Inguinal hernias are different from umbilical hernias (common in babies and often resolve on their own) and usually require surgery to correct.

When the baby is a female, indirect inguinal hernias can cause other reproductive organs to slide into the wrong location. They are usually repaired quickly as they can cause a life-threatening condition called a strangulated inguinal hernia when a portion of the intestine becomes trapped or incarcerated causing a dangerous bowel blockage. Studies have shown that the risk of incarceration is higher in babies under a year old.

Direct Inguinal Hernia

Normally found in adults, direct inguinal hernias form by breaking through the inguinal canal wall. Direct inguinal hernias normally are caused by the combination of ongoing pressure and strain being exerted onto a weakened area of the abdominal muscle.

Where Are Inguinal Canal Hernias Normally Located?

The inguinal canals located on either side of the pelvic bone, follow a path from the hip bone diagonally down to the pubic bone. This canal contains blood vessels, lymphatic vessels, and nerves. In females, the ligament supporting the uterus is also located in the inguinal canal.

A hernia that forms due to exertion or pressure put on a weak muscle in this abdominal area will be located in this pathway that runs from the abdomen to the groin. They can form on either or both sides of the groin.

What Is an Inguinal Hernia?

What Is An Incarcerated Inguinal Hernia?

A hernia can sometimes become lodged, begin to swell, and become stuck or “incarcerated”. Once they become incarcerated, the blood supply within the small intestine is compromised and can cause a life-threatening emergency.

Inguinal Hernias in Men

Men are ten times more susceptible to inguinal hernias due to their anatomy. A male’s testicles are located in their lower abdominal wall at birth and descend down the inguinal canal into the scrotum. Their pathway is more prone to developing a hernia because the opening was already there, sometimes doesn’t fully close as it should during development, or can be reopened more easily.

In men, hernias can manifest as a lump or bulge in their scrotum and are called inguinal scrotal hernias. They may not be noticeable unless standing, coughing, or exerting pressure on the area such as lifting a heavy object.

Surgery for inguinal scrotal hernias is needed if the hernia is painful, causing chronic symptoms or complications to arise.

Inguinal Hernias In Women

Inguinal canal hernias are less common in women as this area is significantly more narrow than in men. In women, femoral hernias are more common and form on the upper portion of the thigh. They are often not visible but will create noticeable pain.

Most women undergo surgery to correct asymptomatic inguinal hernias because their risk of complications is higher. Often women who have inguinal hernias also have femoral hernias that are hidden and can entrap their bowels causing a medical emergency. Approximately 50% of women who experience hidden femoral hernias require emergency surgery.

Femoral Hernia vs Inguinal Hernia

An inguinal hernia forms when the abdominal weakness is located in the lower portion of the abdomen on either side of the pelvic bone in one of the inguinal canals. When the hernia forms on the right side of the body it is called a right inguinal hernia and if on the left side of the body it is referred to as a left inguinal hernia. If hernias occur on both sides of the pelvic bone this condition is called bilateral inguinal hernias.

Smaller channels called femoral canals run directly under the inguinal canals. When a hernia develops in one of these channels they are called femoral hernias. Femoral hernias are less common than inguinal hernias and are also seen more in women than in men.

Is A Sports Hernia The Same As An Inguinal Hernia?

No, they are often confused because they have similar symptoms and occur around the same area but are different. Sports hernias vs inguinal hernias are caused by an injury to the groin area but only involve soft tissue located in the groin and abdominal area.

If you think you may have an Inguinal hernia or have been diagnosed with one and are seeking more information or treatment, contact IBI Healthcare Institute today.