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Do Men Actually Get More Hernias Than Women?

December 05, 2022

Hernias are often thought of as a man's problem, but the truth is that women get hernias too. Lots of them. Artem Dyatlov, MD, a general surgeon based out of St. Vincent’s Medical Center, said that in his practice his hernia patients are evenly split between men and women. So where does the stereotype come from? And what should men and women know about the types of hernias that affect them? [insert-cta-small id=45964]

What is a hernia?

A hernia occurs when a portion of an organ (most commonly the small intestine, or fatty tissue) pushes through a weakness in the wall of a muscle or tissue that holds it in place. This creates a bulge that can be seen and felt. There are four common types of hernias:
  • Inguinal hernia: The most common type of hernia, which appears at the top of your groin.
  • Femoral hernia: This also appears at your groin near the top of the inner thigh, but is below where an inguinal hernia appears.
  • Umbilical hernia: Protrudes through the abdomen near the belly button.
  • Hiatal (hiatus) hernia: Part of the stomach pushes up into the chest cavity through an opening in the diaphragm.

Men do get more hernias, but only certain kinds.

Certain types of hernias tend to impact one sex more than the other because of their anatomy. Inguinal hernias are much more common in men. This is because men have a small hole in their groin muscle that allows the spermatic cord and blood vessels to reach the testicles, which makes them more susceptible to hernias. Femoral hernias, on the other hand, are more likely to affect older women because of the shape of their pelvis. > Related: Still Waiting for Your Hernia to Go Away on Its Own? 5 Hernia Myths Debunked

Women may have other hernia risk factors.

For women, hernias can be caused by weakened muscles that may have been present since birth, or are associated with aging and repeated strains on the abdominal and groin areas. Such strain can include:
  • Physical exertion
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Frequent coughing
  • Straining on the toilet due to constipation
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Hernia surgery has gotten much easier.

Sonia Nuńez still remembers her first hernia surgery in 1999. The hernia was the result of tearing scar tissue from two Cesarean sections. “I was at the gym doing sit ups and I actually felt it rip,” she said. The recovery from that surgery was slow and painful, she recalled. “I couldn’t even move for days afterwards,” she said. Everything was fine until about two years ago, when she was hiking and began feeling pain in her right side. Every time she walked at a brisk pace for exercise, she felt the pain, and then in 2021, she noticed a bulge on her right side, at the base of her hip. An ultrasound showed a tear. A CT scan confirmed it was a Spigelian hernia - a rare type of hernia that can be difficult to diagnose. “After this surgery, I came home, I was able to walk around, I wasn’t uncomfortable,” she said. “It was the most amazing recovery.”