By Dr Jessica Garner/ GP and Health
There is nothing glamorous about the groin and (understandably) for most of us it’s a fairly ignored part of the body. You may not be aware though, that the groin it is actually quite a complex region with various ligaments, vessels, nerves and muscles all passing through this relatively small area.
In fact, it’s a bit of a spaghetti junction in anatomical terms! With all these parts lying so close together, it does mean that lumps and bumps can arise in this region fairly commonly. So read on to learn more about what can go wrong with this overlooked part of your anatomy!
A hernia is essentially the name given to an internal part of the body (typically fatty tissue or bowel) pushing through a weakness in the muscle wall. Hernias usually start off as being soft and tend to ‘pop’ in or out depending on what you are doing. Movements that cause a strain on your abdomen such as heavy lifting or coughing will often cause the hernia to pop out, but usually it is possible to gently push the hernia back inside the body. Sometimes the hernia stops easily sliding in and out and gets ‘stuck’. This can be dangerous and usually requires urgent surgery to fix it. There are two common types of groin hernias: inguinal and femoral. Both usually need an operation to fix them into place and avoid complications as described above.
The human body has between 500-700 glands or lymph nodes and a fair number of these are found in the groin region. In slim people, these glands may be felt even if they aren’t enlarged as they lie close to the surface of the skin. Lymph nodes can become larger for a variety of reasons, the commonest being infection. Typically glands will go back down to normal size after a couple of weeks, but not always and they can occasionally wax and wane in size over time.
Lymph nodes that are hard, large (bigger than half a centimetre) and continue to grow in size are less common but can represent a more concerning cause. Further investigations and referral to hospital may be needed if your doctor is worried about your glands.
- Blood vessels
Sometimes varicose veins can start in the groin causing a soft lump to form. These lumps disappear when you lie down and are not painful. Sometimes one of the large blood vessels in the groin can become weak, causing a pulsing lump to form. This type of lump usually requires an operation to sort it out.
- Undescended testicle
Around 1-6% of little boys are born with an undescended testicle and often the testicle can be felt in the groin. Most of the testicles will work their way back into the scrotum by the age of three months, but if this doesn’t happen sometimes an operation is needed to fix the testicle into its rightful place.
- Skin infections and abscess
Simple cysts or skin infections commonly occur in the groin region. They typically feel close to the surface of the skin and may be tender to touch. If an infection is suspected usually a short course of antibiotics will sort out the problem.