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Nearly 5 million people in the United States are diagnosed with a hernia each year. Hernias can develop over a long period of time or occur instantly. They often require surgical intervention. For men, inguinal hernias are by far the most common, accounting for approximately 80 percent of those diagnosed. In addition, men are 10 times more likely than women to develop an inguinal hernia. Because inguinal hernias can lead to serious complications, it is important to recognize the signs of symptoms and seek immediate medical care.

An inguinal hernia occurs when there is a weak spot in the groin muscle, allowing tissue within the abdominal cavity to bulge through. This is often due to a common problem in men, in which the muscles around the abdominal wall do not completely close before birth, leaving a weakness in the lower abdominal area. Once excess pressure is applied to the area, a hernia is likely to occur and can cause severe discomfort.

While a hernia can result from a muscle deficiency at birth, there are other factors that can cause a hernia such as:

• A family history of an inguinal hernia.

• A chronic cough caused by smoking or other health conditions, such as cystic fibrosis.

• Obesity, which can put excess pressure on the abdominal and pelvic muscles.

• Heavy lifting or physical labor.

A bulge in the groin or scrotum, which may feel like a lump to the touch, is one of the most common symptoms of an inguinal hernia. Other symptoms may include swelling or a feeling of heaviness or burning in the groin area. Often, these symptoms will improve when you lie down, which alleviates pressure in this area. If sudden nausea and vomiting occur it may be a sign of a strangulated hernia, which occurs when part of the intestine has become trapped in the hernia. It is important to seek medical attention at the first sign of a strangulated hernia as complications including intestinal obstruction, gangrene or death may occur.

The only way to repair a hernia is through surgery. During one of the most common procedures, a herniorrhaphy, a physician will make a small incision to the lower abdomen, push the tissue or intestines back into the abdominal cavity and repair the broken muscle wall. After a herniorrhaphy, most patients can resume normal activities within a few weeks. During another common procedure, the hernioplasty, the physician laparoscopically inserts a mesh covering the weakened area in order to repair the hernia and prevent future episodes. After a laparoscopic hernioplasty, most patients can return to normal activities within a few days. Even if symptoms are not severe, a physician may recommend surgery to avoid complications, such as the risk of strangulated hernia.

Although an inguinal hernia is the most common type occurring in men, there are other types of hernias, which affect both men and women. A hiatal hernia occurs when the stomach is pushed into the chest cavity, causing a bulge, and an incisional hernia occurs at the site of a previous abdominal surgery or procedure.

In some instances a hernia may be unavoidable, but there are a few simple steps that can help prevent a hernia from developing, such as:

• Maintain a healthy weight through routine diet and exercise.

• Eat foods high in fiber.

• Avoid heavy lifting.

• Discontinue smoking to help control episodes of chronic coughing.

If you experience signs or symptoms associated with an inguinal hernia, contact your provider to discuss treatment options and ways to minimize your risk.

Jack D. Alston, M.D., FACS, and Patrick Schiefelbein, D.O., are general surgeons at Surgical Associates of Siloam Springs. They perform a variety of surgical services including laparoscopy, biopsy, colonoscopy and more, and both are Members of the Siloam Springs Regional Hospital Medical Staff. For more information, visit or call 479-215-3040.

General News on 03/14/2018

Print Headline: Inguinal hernias common for men

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