Groin swelling: causes and treatment swelling in the groin

A groin swelling refers to a swelling, bump or lump that appears in the groin area, the fold of skin that forms the transition between the lower abdomen and the upper leg. The swelling in the groin can vary in shape and size, and it may or may not be accompanied by pain or itching. You may be able to move the swelling. A groin swelling may remain skin-colored or it may become red or purple. Sometimes swelling may be accompanied by ulceration, or it may break open and form ulcers. The shape and appearance of a swelling in the groin depends on the cause. If you have swelling in the groin, see your doctor as soon as possible.

  • The groin
  • Most common causes of groin swelling
  • Skin infections
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Inguinal hernia
  • Other causes of swelling in the groin
  • Other skin conditions
  • Lipomas (fat bumps)
  • Enlarged blood vessels
  • Undescended testicle
  • When to consult a doctor?
  • Examination and diagnosis
  • Interview and physical examination
  • Ultrasound
  • Blood tests
  • Biopsy (tissue examination)
  • Treatment of swelling in the groin
  • Medical treatment
  • Treatment of an inguinal hernia
  • Prevention of groin swelling

 

The groin

The groin is the two folds of skin that form the transition between the lower abdomen and the upper legs. You have a groin on both sides, around the crease where your leg connects to the rest of your body. The groin lies over the hip joint and contains several muscles of the leg. There is a group of lymph nodes in the groin area, which cannot normally be felt. It also contains the inguinal canal or canalis inguinalis and in men the vas deferens runs through it and in women the round uterine band. Muscles, blood vessels, lymphatic vessels and nerves for the leg run under the inguinal ligament (ligamentum inguinale).

Most common causes of groin swelling

The most common causes of groin swelling are the following.

Skin infections

Skin infection such as boils or abscesses can occur in the groin area. Inflamed hair follicles mainly occur in body folds, especially if there is trauma from shaving or waxing or from rubbing underwear. These lumps may be red or pink and painful. It can be painful to touch them. They can range from mildly painful pimples to very large abscesses.Cat scratch disease: infection occurs via a cat scratch / Source: Mydegage/Shutterstock.com

Swollen lymph nodes

Lymph nodes are collection sites for white blood cells and are part of your immune system and help fight infections. Normally you cannot feel your lymph nodes, but if they become swollen you may feel them as a lump or lumps. You can also experience swollen lymph nodes in the groin. The most common cause of swollen lymph nodes is infection; the swollen lymph nodes simply do their job and fight the infection. Swollen lymph nodes in the groin are often caused by sexually transmitted infections (STDs), diaper rash, infection on the feet or legs, and cat scratch disease. Lymph nodes can also swell in response to infections that affect your entire system, such as glandular fever, chickenpox, or the flu. When the lymph nodes swell due to an infection, they usually return to their normal size once the infection clears.Less commonly, lymph nodes swell due to a form of cancer. Cancers of the blood system, such as lymphoma (lymph node cancer) or leukemia, can cause swollen lymph nodes. Cancers from other parts of the body can also spread to the lymph nodes, causing them to become larger. Lymph nodes that are swollen due to a certain cancer will often not disappear, as is the case with an infection. They usually grow slowly, while glands that swell due to an infection often appear suddenly.There are some sporadic causes of swollen lymph nodes, such as sarcoidosis , systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), HIV/AIDS.Inguinal hernia / Source: BruceBlaus / Blausen.com, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-3.0)

Inguinal hernia

An inguinal hernia is a weak spot in the abdominal wall, through which the peritoneum and abdominal fat or intestine can bulge out. Three types of inguinal hernia are distinguished:

  • Inguinal inguinal hernia, a ‘normal’ inguinal hernia, is more common in men
  • femoral inguinal hernia (thigh fracture): will appear as a bulge near the groin or thigh and is more common in women.
  • an incisional hernia: in the area of a scar or injury from a previous operation

An inguinal hernia usually feels very tender and usually goes away when you lie down. If the tissue becomes stuck in the inguinal hernia, it can be painful. If this happens, you should urgently consult a doctor.

Other causes of swelling in the groin

Other skin conditions

Besides infection, there may be other skin conditions that can cause a lump in the groin, such as:

  • cysts in the groin
  • Genital Warts
  • benign tumors (such as papillomas) or malignant tumors (cancer).

The groin is an unusual place to get skin cancer because it is not exposed to the sun as often as other parts of the body.

Lipomas (fat bumps)

Lumps that come from the fat layer under the skin are called lipomas or fat lumps. They are quite common and can occur anywhere in the body where there is a layer of fatty tissue. They feel quite soft and are usually harmless.

Enlarged blood vessels

Sometimes a vein or artery can become swollen, causing a lump to form. A swollen artery in the groin is called a femoral aneurysm. Swollen veins are called varicose veins and in the groin this is called a saphenous vein.Doctor examines baby with undescended testicle / Source: Istock.com/Zdenka Darula

Undescended testicle

Only around the end of pregnancy do a baby boy’s testicles descend. However, some boys are born with undescended testicles, but this will be checked after birth. If the testicles have not descended by 6 months of age, surgery may be needed to move the testicles to where they should be.

When to consult a doctor?

Always consult your doctor if you notice unexplained swelling in the groin that does not go away on its own. See a doctor as soon as possible if the groin swelling seems to be getting bigger.Alarm symptoms Consult a doctor immediately in the following cases:

  • the lump or swelling in the groin is very painful
  • you have pain in your abdominal area, together with being sick (vomiting) and/or not being able to defecate
  • you have a high temperature (fever) and you don’t feel well

 

Examination and diagnosis

Interview and physical examination

The doctor will ask some questions about your complaints and then examine the swelling in your groin. In some circumstances the diagnosis will be clear at this stage and no further tests are needed. For example, if an abscess is present, no further investigation is often necessary.

Ultrasound

In many cases an ultrasound scan will be useful. This can provide more information about the type of lump you have. For example, if the doctor suspects that the swelling in the groin is an inguinal hernia, a scan can confirm this and determine what type of inguinal hernia it is and whether treatment is needed. For example, if the scan shows fatty tissue, it indicates a lipoma. If you have an aneurysm, the scan will show a swollen artery. Undescended testicles can be seen on an ultrasound. A cavity filled with fluid suggests a cyst, and so on.Blood test for groin swelling / Source: Istock.com/anna1311

Blood tests

Blood tests may also be helpful. These can help determine if swollen lymph nodes are due to an infection and in some cases blood tests can help identify the cause of the infection. People who suffer from recurring boils or keep getting abscesses may need a blood test to check for an underlying reason such as diabetes.

Biopsy (tissue examination)

Sometimes it may be necessary to take a sample of the swelling for further analysis. This is called a biopsy. A sample of the tissue in the swelling can be taken with a thin needle or the hell bump can be removed. The tissue sample is then examined under the microscope to determine the cause.

Treatment of swelling in the groin

Medical treatment

The treatment of swelling in the groin depends on the cause of the groin swelling. The doctor may recommend surgery to remove a cyst if it is large or painful. An inguinal hernia may require surgery to put the tissue back in place and close the hernia. Swollen glands will usually shrink back over time, but the doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to treat an underlying infection.

Treatment of an inguinal hernia

An inguinal hernia never disappears spontaneously, but the hernia will become larger over time and cause (more) complaints. The inguinal hernia can be repaired through surgery. There are two ways to operate on an inguinal hernia:

  • Classical method, an ‘open operation’, or a Lichtenstein operation
  • Keyhole surgery or endoscopy (TEP surgery)

With the classic method, an incision is made at the site of the inguinal hernia, after which the bulge of the peritoneum is removed or pushed back into the abdominal cavity. The relevant spot in the abdominal wall is then closed and reinforced with a plastic mat.The ‘Total Extra Peritoneal’ (TEP) approach is performed through three openings of approximately 1 cm. This method produces smaller scars and less wound pain after the operation than the open operation. The plastic mesh is placed deeper , so you have less chance of severe nerve pain than with open surgery.After inguinal hernia surgery, there may be residual bleeding or wound infection. Sometimes a fracture occurs again in the same place over time. In that case, another operation is required to correct it. More chance of an inguinal hernia if you are overweight / Source: Taniadimas, Pixabay

Prevention of groin swelling

Most groin swellings occur naturally and cannot be prevented. However, you can help prevent an STD by always using a condom or by only having sexual intercourse in the context of a long-term, monogamous relationship with a partner who you are sure does not have an STD. If you are at risk of developing an inguinal hernia, you can reduce the risk by avoiding heavy lifting, not straining during bowel movements, and maintaining a healthy weight. You are more at risk of an inguinal hernia if you:

  • have a family history of inguinal hernias
  • are overweight
  • are pregnant
  • have a chronic cough

 

read more

  • Swollen lymph nodes in groin: causes of swollen glands
  • Lump in groin or groin tumor: causes and symptoms of lumps
  • Pain in groin or groin pain: causes of a painful groin
  • Abscess in skin or body: pus-filled swelling in cavity
  • Itching in the groin or inguinal fold: symptoms, cause and treatment

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