These are the 6 most common types of external abdominal wall hernias. To learn about each type of hernia, roll your cursor over the diagram and click on the highlighted areas.
This is the most common type of hernia, representing 60% of all external abdominal wall hernias. Men have a much higher risk of developing an indirect inguinal hernia than women. That is because, before they are born, men have a natural opening in their groin,The groin is the area just above the skin crease, where the upper leg meets the abdomen. where the spermatic cord and the testiclesTesticles are part of the male reproductive system. They produce sperm and male hormones. The testicles are located below the penis, in a pouch of skin called the scrotum. pass out of the abdomen into the scrotumThe scrotum is the pouch of skin that holds a man’s testicles. It is located just below the penis.. The path that the testicles travel into the scrotum is called the inguinal canal.
Sometimes, the opening at the top of the inguinal canal does not close properly after the testicles have passed through. The opening weakens the abdominal wall, increasing the risk that a hernia may develop. This is called a congenital weakness because it is usually present when you are born. Women also have an inguinal canal but they are far less likely to develop a weak spot in this area because they do not have a spermatic cord passing out of the abdomen.
If you have an indirect inguinal hernia, it means that fat or, part of your intestine (also called the bowel) has slipped through a weak spot in your abdominal wall. The hernia may appear as a small bulge on one or both sides of your groin. If it is not repaired, an indirect inguinal hernia will almost always get larger, as more fat or tissue bulges through the abdominal wall. In men, the hernia may gradually move right down the inguinal canal into the scrotum.
Direct inguinal hernias occur most often in men but may also affect women. This type of hernia may develop when the body’s continuous cycle of breaking down and building up tissue is no longer in balance, causing weak spots to develop in the muscles and tissue. Increased pressure or straining can also weaken the muscles or connective tissueConnective tissue supports, surrounds and may connect muscles, organs and other parts of your body. of the abdomen. Increased pressure can be caused by weight gain, sports injuries or activities such as heavy lifting, chronic coughing, vomiting or straining on the toilet due to constipation. Learn more about the causes of hernias.
If you have a direct inguinal hernia, it means that fat or, in rare cases, part of your intestine (also called the bowel) has slipped through a weak spot in the abdominal wall. Direct inguinal hernias may get bigger over time but do not usually get large enough to reach the scrotum.The scrotum is the pouch of skin that holds a man’s testicles. It is located just below the penis.
An umbilical hernia develops in the area of your belly button. This type of hernia is seen most often in babies and young children. It can also develop in pregnant women and in people who are overweight or obese.
Femoral hernias are rare. They are more common in women who have been pregnant or are obese but they can also occur in men. A femoral hernia develops when fat or part of your intestine (also called the bowel) pushes through a weak spot in the muscles or tissue and enters the femoral canal. The femoral canal is a passageway that carries large blood vessels in and out of your leg.
This type of hernia will appear as a small bulge at the groinThe groin is the area just above the skin crease, where the upper leg meets the abdomen. crease just above your thigh and may be misdiagnosed as an inguinal hernia. As it gets larger, it will move down into your leg. If you have a femoral hernia, there is a greater (but still small) risk that part of your intestine may get trapped. This is called an “incarcerated hernia” and can lead to a life-threatening emergency known as a strangulated herniaA strangulated hernia develops when the hernia is tightly trapped and blood will no longer flow into the tissues. Without a blood supply, the trapped tissues will die. A strangulated hernia is not very common but can cause severe pain, nausea, vomiting and even death. A strangulated hernia requires immediate medical attention.. The risk of strangulation is higher in femoral hernias.
Learn to recognize the symptoms of a trapped hernia.
Epigastric hernias can develop in both women and men. This type of hernia appears as a bulge in the area below the ribcage and above the belly button. At first, the bulge may be small but epigastric hernias can become quite large over time.
Epigastric hernias usually develop in people who are born with a weak spot in their abdominal muscles. If you have this type of weakness, any forceful activity, such as sneezing, coughing or lifting heavy objects, could be all it takes to push abdominal fat through the opening.
An incisional hernia is caused by weakening in the scar tissue that develops after you have had an operation on your abdomen. If you gain a lot of weight after an operation, you are at higher risk of developing an incisional hernia. Forceful activities, such as coughing, sneezing or lifting heavy weights, may also lead to this type of hernia.