Different Types of Hernia in Men

A hernia may be one of the most misunderstood medical conditions among laymen, who often tend to think of it as more complex than it is. University of Michigan Health casts it in simple terms by describing it as "a bulge caused by tissue pushing through the wall of muscle that's holding it in."

The confusion continues straight to the notion of gender: Hernias are commonly associated with men, but women develop them, too. Furthermore, hernias can occur in people of any age, from birth to late adulthood.

Most hernias are abdominal hernias. Anything that strains the abdominal wall—from lifting heavy objects to exercising—can predispose someone to a hernia and cause one, too.

This article describes the seven types of hernias men are most likely to experience and the red flags that can alert you to the presence of one.

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Inguinal Hernias

Inguinal (or groin) hernias are the most common type of hernias, though men have a higher risk of experiencing one than women. The inguinal canal is where the testes descend before birth. The canal contains the spermatic cord and blood vessels.

An inguinal hernia occurs when tissue (like fat or intestines) protrudes through a weakness in the abdominal cavity near the groin. The herniated part can then travel through the opening and into the groin or the scrotum.

Inguinal hernias can generally be pushed back or even slide back and forth on their own. However, if the segment of intestine gets stuck and strangulates, the situation becomes an emergency. It can be repaired with minimally invasive surgery.

Umbilical Hernias

Umbilical hernias occur when the abdominal wall is weakened at the point of the umbilical cord (belly button). It is the second most common type of hernia in adults, though since pregnancy is an obvious "risk factor" for umbilical hernias, women are more likely to develop them.

These hernias can often be reduced manually or repaired with surgery.

Epigastric Hernias

Epigastric hernias are protrusions of fat or sometimes intestine through the abdominal wall between the navel and the breastbone. Fat or intestine can push through a weak spot in the abdominal wall.

This type of hernia can be left alone, but the decision usually rests with the patient. The pain will continue, and it won't improve without surgery.

Ventral Hernias

A ventral, or incisional, hernia occurs when scar tissue weakens the abdominal wall after a surgical procedure or as a result of trauma. These hernias can occur anywhere on the abdomen where there is a scar, like the midline or lateral edges.

Not all hernias can be repaired with a laparoscope, but this one can. For this procedure, a surgeon makes several small cuts in the belly and inserts a thin tube with a camera at the end to make the repair. Laparoscopy usually results in a faster recovery time, and with less pain.

Popping Sensations Are Common

Men often describe the sensation of a hernia as though something internally has popped or given way.

Obturator Hernias

An obturator hernia occurs when part of the intestine passes through the gap between the bones of the front of the pelvis. They can be difficult to diagnose, though a computed tomography (CT) scan can confirm a physician's suspicions.

A timely surgical repair is crucial to preventing the condition from getting worse.

Hiatal Hernia

A hiatal hernia is one that happens internally and is not visible from the outside. It occurs when the upper part of the stomach protrudes through a hole (hiatus) in the diaphragm, an area usually occupied by the esophagus. It can be associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Hiatal hernias can be treated with surgery, if necessary.

Femoral Hernias

More common in women, femoral hernias occur when part of the intestine protrudes through the femoral canal and protrudes at the top of the thigh. The femoral canal is where the main blood vessels pass that supply the legs.

Open and laparoscopic surgery are both options. Often, time can be of the essence because of the potential for complications. Namely, the bowel can become obstructed or strangulated.

When to See a Doctor

Men experience different hernia symptoms than women, but they're hard to miss:

  • A bulge you can see or feel
  • A feeling of pressure
  • A tugging sensation of the scrotum around the testicles
  • Aching pain in the area
  • Pain that worsens with activities that add pressure to the area, such as heavy lifting, pushing, and straining

By contrast, hernias in women are difficult to diagnose because the hernias are small. Plus, women usually experience internal hernias and so are more likely to feel regular pain with little let-up.

The good (if not great) news is, "nearly all hernias can be surgically repaired," according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Summary

A hernia is a bulge caused by tissue pushing through the wall of muscle that's holding it in. Inguinal (or groin) hernias are the most common type of hernias, and men have a higher risk of experiencing one. The six other common types of hernias are umbilical, epigastric, ventral, obturator, hiatal, and femoral hernias. The red flags that can alert you to the presence of a hernia include a bulge you can see or feel, a feeling of pressure, a tugging sensation of the scrotum around the testicles, aching pain in the area, or pain that worsens with activities that add pressure to the area, such as heavy lifting, pushing, and straining. Call your physician right away if you experience any of these symptoms.

A Word From Verywell

It's understandable that men in particular are eager to prevent a hernia. But the truth is, it's nearly impossible to eliminate all the risk factors since "anything that strains the abdominal wall can predispose a person to a hernia," Stamford Health says. "Anything" includes heavy lifting, abdominal weight gain, chronic coughing, and a surgical procedure on the abdominal wall. You can't avoid all of these activities, but you can be proactive about paying attention to the warning signs—and following the conventional wisdom that the sooner a condition is diagnosed, the better the long-term prognosis.

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10 Sources
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