This is the most common hernia (about 70% of all hernias are inguinal hernias). They occur in the groin, the small area of the lower abdomen on each side just above the line separating the abdomen and the legs, and around the pubic bone.
Why do they occur?
They occur through the inguinal canal, a conduit where the testicle comes through on its way to the scrotum during the development of males. Men and women develop from the same basic pattern so there are anatomical similarities between men and women, meaning that women also have the inguinal canal. But in women the inguinal canal is much much smaller, and as a result inguinal hernias are much more uncommon than in men.
How do I know if I have an inguinal hernia?
You may see or feel a lump, bulge or swelling under the skin. It may be a bit uncomfortable. The swelling will often disappear completely when you lie down, as the contents of the hernia sac slip back through the hole into the abdomen. It may also be aggravated by coughing, sneezing, etc.
Sometimes there is hardly any swelling to see, but you may be conscious of a strange feeling in the groin when you are standing or walking for any period of time.
Many hernias cause no pain at all, but that does not mean they are not there or that they are not in need of attention.
What should I do?
See a doctor to confirm the diagnosis. The doctor will examine you (normally very simply) to confirm and will refer you to see a surgeon, ideally one who specialises in hernia.
Making or confirming the diagnosis
If there is an obvious swelling that disappears when you lie down, it is pretty conclusive that you have an inguinal hernia. You shouldn’t need any special tests.
See also: Do I Have a Hernia