A hernia occurs when an organ or tissue protrudes through an abnormal opening in the body. The most common is an inguinal (groin) hernia, which represents more than 90 percent of hernias that occur. This happens when a small piece of the bowel bulges out through a hole or weakness in the inguinal canal, which is a passage through the muscles of the abdominal wall. As a result, a piece of bowel bulges into the groin. This can occur in both men and women but is much more common in men. Direct inguinal hernias occur when a weak spot develops in the lower abdominal muscles. Indirect inguinal hernias occur when the inguinal canal has failed to close before birth.
Other types of hernias, which represent less than 1 percent of total hernias include: incisional (relating to a previous surgery), ventral (relating to a defect in the muscles of the abdomen), umbilical (a weakness at the navel), femoral (relating to the blood vessels between the groin and the leg – and more common in women), and hiatal (relating to the diaphragm.)
You may notice your hernia as a lump or a bulge. Hernias often cause pain and sometimes a feeling of pressure, burning, “gurgling” or weakness. You may notice that the pain or feelings become stronger as you spend time standing or if you do any straining or lifting.
Some people live with hernias for years. The downside of this is not just the pain, however. Ignoring a hernia increases the risk of what’s called incarceration (the hernia gets stuck where it has protruded) and strangulation (blood supply to the trapped tissue is cut off).