Hernia Symptoms in Men vs. Women

Instructor: Justine Fritzel

Justine has been a Registered Nurse for 10 years and has a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degree.

Are symptoms of a hernia different in men and women? In this lesson, we will answer that question. We will learn more about hernias and compare symptoms experienced by men and women.

Defining a Hernia

Most people have heard the term hernia. But do you really understand what it is? A hernia is when some type of body tissue pushes through a weak part of the muscle that normally contains that body tissue.

Different Cavities of the Body
abdominal cavity

There are all different types of hernias. Many of them occur in the abdominal cavity. Your abdominal cavity contains internal organs such as your intestines, liver, and stomach and is contained by your abdominal muscles. The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle that separates the chest cavity from your abdominal cavity.

A hernia can occur through a weak area of the abdominal muscles or the diaphragm, for example. Let's look at the symptoms associated with hernias next.

What Symptoms are Associated With a Hernia?

Many hernias are visible. You may see a bulge or lump somewhere in your abdomen depending on the type of hernia. The bulge is generally soft to the touch and with gentle manipulation, it can often be pushed back through the hole that it is protruding through. This is called reducing the hernia.

Since that hole is still present, the hernia will push back through when you cough or strain. Sometimes there may be some discomfort, pressure or pain associated with the hernia. Complications can occur as well. If the hernia becomes trapped in the abdominal muscle and blood supply is lost, this is called an incarcerated hernia, and you will experience severe pain. The hernia will also show discoloration, and this is a life-threatening condition that would require immediate medical attention.

Are Symptoms of a Hernia Different for Men Than Women?

Hernias can occur in both men and women. Some hernias are congenital meaning that a person is born with the hernia or the defect that will later result in a hernia. Other hernias occur for various reasons later in life.

The question is, are symptoms of a hernia different in men versus women? Essentially, the answer is no. Hernias present as the same bulge that can sometimes be reduced. They can have some discomfort and pressure. And any hernia could become incarcerated. But there are certain types of hernias that are more predominant in either women or men that may have specific symptoms related to them.

Let's learn a little more about the types of hernias that are most common in men or women.

Most Common in Women

Almost all of the many types of hernias can occur in either men or women. Some of the types of hernias are known to occur more often in women though.

Femoral hernias are more likely to occur in women. The femoral artery exits the abdominal cavity to enter the thigh. A hernia in this area is when part of the intestine protrudes through this narrow exit in the abdominal muscle. The hernia may be visible in the middle of the upper thigh. This type of hernia is not usually reducible and has a high likelihood of becoming incarcerated.

A femoral hernia may not be visible and may not have any symptoms. Symptoms of stomach or groin pain, nausea or vomiting may indicate you have an incarcerated hernia.

Another hernia that is more common in women is an obturator hernia. This is a very rare type of hernia but does occur mostly in women. The hernia occurs through the pelvic bone, so there is no visible hernia. It is difficult to diagnose, but symptoms include nausea and vomiting. It may present similarly to having a bowel obstruction.

Most Common in Men

Some hernias are much more likely to occur in men. Inguinal hernias occur eight to ten times more often in men than women! An inguinal hernia is located in the groin area, right above your leg crease. This can occur on either side. Symptoms include a bulge in the groin area that can be reduced. Pressure and discomfort may also be present. The hernia is more prominent when straining or coughing.

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