The body is a beautiful, grotesque mystery. Everything seems to have its perfect place, until suddenly a little piece of your intestine gets knocked out of its position. Maybe it becomes a little lump near your belly button, or maybe it becomes a lump in the worst possible place — your balls. In fact, it happens often: Simply getting older and being white can put you at risk of developing hernias for essentially no reason, though even seemingly healthy activities like working out with weights can cause them.
“A hernia is a weak or torn layer of tissue that can happen in different parts of the body,” explains James Elist, urologist and inventor of Penuma. “Hernias are caused by a combination of pressure and an opening or weakness of muscle or fascia; the pressure pushes an organ or tissue through the opening or weak spot. Sometimes the muscle weakness is present at birth; more often, it occurs later in life.”
Basically, your body presents a variety of circumstances in which your organs and bits could get squeezed into the wrong spot. The groin is no exception.
“When hernias happen in the groin area, they’re called inguinal or femoral hernias. Inguinal hernias may be caused by fluid or pressure in the abdomen, heavy lifting, such as weightlifting, repetitive straining during urination or bowel movements, obesity, chronic cough, pregnancy, congenital defect in the inguinal area or other causes,” says Elist. “Large inguinal hernias in men can extend to the scrotum.”
So what the hell are you supposed to do about it?
First, you’ll need to actually determine if what you’re experiencing is a hernia. Odds are, you’ll feel it — hernias are often painful, but typically also produce an unusual bulge that can be seen or touched. There’s a chance, however, that you could have some other issue, such as a testicular tumor. Of course, a tumor wouldn’t just develop overnight, while a hernia can occur suddenly. Regardless, you’ll want to see a doctor.
“Hernias can be painful or even dangerous if the tissue becomes trapped, since the tissue doesn’t get enough blood,” says Elist. “As soon as you feel or see a bulge in your groin or scrotum, you need to see a physician. In most cases, hernias can be diagnosed via a physical examination. Not all hernias need treatment quickly, but some need to be repaired via surgery.”
Other hernias are fine to exist for extended periods of time, though you’ll want to avoid putting further pressure or strain on them. Exercising is still an option, and maintaining a healthy weight will help you avoid them in the future, but it’s important to be careful when lifting weights — in particular, lifting from the waist rather than the knees can contribute to them.
With your genital health, it’s always worth following a general rule of addressing anything new that might be happening. If you have any new pain or lumps, talk to your doctor. A hernia might be harmless, or it could cut off blood supply to your balls entirely. Not worth risking it!