1. Definition

This is the commonest type of hernia and approximately 75,000 people undergo surgery to repair these in the United Kingdom every year. 95% occur in men. The primary cause is a weakness in the muscle wall in the groin. Soft tissue, including occasionally parts of the intestine, can then protrude through this weakness.

What is an inguinal hernia?

There are essentially two kinds of inguinal hernia.  Indirect inguinal hernias can occur at any age as a result of failure of closure of the “deep inguinal ring” following descent of the testicle through it on its way from the abdominal cavity into the scrotum.  These hernias in particular are more likely to result in pain and strangulation.

Direct inguinal hernias occur as a consequence of degeneration and weakness in the fascia and muscular layer of the abdominal wall in the inguinal canal.  Men are ten times as likely to suffer from direct inguinal hernias and usually these occur in middle and old age.


Indirect inguinal hernias result from a congenital weakness.  This may present at any age and often run in families.  Appearance of both direct and indirect inguinal hernias may be precipitated by the following:


More often than not there is no obvious precipitating factor

Go to page 2: Symptoms

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