An inguinal hernia (say “IN-gwuh-nul HER-nee-uh”) occurs when tissue pushes through a weak spot in your groin muscle. This causes a bulge in the groin or scrotum. The bulge may hurt or burn.
Most inguinal hernias happen because an opening in the muscle wall does not close as it should before birth. That leaves a weak area in the belly muscle. Pressure on that area can cause tissue to push through and bulge out. A hernia can occur soon after birth or much later in life.
You are more likely to get a hernia if you are overweight or you do a lot of lifting, coughing, or straining. Hernias are more common in men. A woman may get a hernia while she is pregnant because of the pressure on her belly wall.
The main symptom of an inguinal hernia is a bulge in the groin or scrotum. It often feels like a round lump. The bulge may form over a period of weeks or months. Or it may appear all of a sudden after you have been lifting heavy weights, coughing, bending, straining, or laughing. The hernia may be painful, but some hernias cause a bulge without pain.
A hernia also may cause swelling and a feeling of heaviness, tugging, or burning in the area of the hernia. These symptoms may get better when you lie down.
A doctor can usually know if you have a hernia based on your symptoms and a physical exam. The bulge is usually easy to feel.