Umbilical Hernia : Treatment, Causes & Diagnosis

A hernia occurs in humans when an organ or a tissue pushes out through a weak opening in the muscle or the connective tissue. There are several types of hernias. In this article, we are going to know all about Umbilical Hernia.

RELATED: What is Hernia?

What is an umbilical hernia?

An umbilical hernia is a medical condition in which the intestines project out through the abdominal muscles near the belly button (navel). This type of hernia is prevalent among infants. But also, an umbilical hernia occurs in adult men and women too.

An umbilical hernia is confused with an Inguinal hernia because of the protrusion at the groin instead of a belly button. About 20% of newborns are born with an umbilical hernia. It goes unnoticed because the umbilical hernia is painless and does not cause many aches.

Who is affected by the umbilical hernia?

As discussed earlier, an umbilical hernia affects infants. They develop an umbilical hernia at the time of birth when the baby’s umbilical cord is not fully connected to the mother’s umbilical cord.

There is a thought that the umbilical hernia is caused by the way the doctor cuts the umbilical cord of the baby--absurd and a myth to avoid. An umbilical hernia usually disappears with time as the babies start to grow. If an umbilical hernia doesn’t disappear after four years of age, it requires immediate medical attention. Umbilical hernia also occurs in adult men and women. Hernia tends to occur more in older men and women due to the weakening of abdominal muscles.

Causes of umbilical hernia

An umbilical hernia results due to various reasons in adults. Potential causes that lead to the belly button protrusion are as follows:

  • Being overweight
  • Multiple pregnancies (in the case of women)
  • Heavy cough
  • Lifting heavy load
  • Earlier abdominal surgical procedures
  • Presence of excess fluids in the abdomen

Signs & symptoms of umbilical hernia

An umbilical hernia in newborns or infants will be visible when they cough, cry, or strain to act such as passing stools. At other times, the hernia may not be visible. In some severe cases, the babies start to vomit. In adults, the common symptom is sticking out of the belly button which causes intense pain and discomfort at the hernia site. In some cases, the bulge may also be sore, swollen, and discolored.

Risk factors and complications

Common risk factors of umbilical hernia are as follows:

  • Age: Babies born preterm have a higher chance of being affected by umbilical hernia. Similarly, older people have more risk due to the weakening of abdominal muscles.
  • Chronic straining: People who perform activities involving continuous straining such as lift heavy objects daily are more prone to umbilical hernia.
  • Obesity: Obese people tend to exert more pressure on the abdominal wall muscles due to the overweight.
  • Excess fluid: Due to excessive alcohol intake, the fluid between the abdominal wall and the organs results in the belly button protrusion.
  • Frequent Pregnancy: Women who bear multiple gestational pregnancies (twins and triplets) are at more risk of umbilical hernia.

Complications due to umbilical hernia:

As umbilical hernia happens mostly in infants, there are no major complications associated with it. In few newborns, the abdominal walls lack the proper supply of blood due to umbilical hernia. This may lead to acute pain and even cause irreparable tissue damage at the belly button. In adults, an umbilical hernia may lead to the strangulation of the intestine that requires immediate operation as it causes life-threatening conditions.

How to diagnose umbilical hernia?

A simple physical examination will reveal the existence of an umbilical hernia. Expert doctors will be able to easily identify whether the hernia is reversible/irreversible in both infants and adults.

Answers Healthcare surgeons diagnose umbilical hernia with reports from X-ray, blood tests, and ultrasound which aids a comprehensive treatment.

Thus your infant or your health is ensured with no major underlying secondary risk complications (infection, incarcerated intestine, or ischemia) associated with it.

Treatment for umbilical hernia

Umbilical hernia in an infant doesn’t need treatment if it resolves on its own with no other medical complications faced by the infant due to hernia. Sometimes, doctors carefully push back the bulge at the belly button of the infants if it is small ensuring to avoid strangulation.

Usually, surgery is performed only when a hernia exists for more than two years and becomes bigger in infants. Also, surgery is strongly recommended when the intestines are trapped which causes blockage in the blood flow to the abdomen. The surgery procedure may be performed in two ways – Open hernia repair and laparoscopic hernia repair.

In both surgical methods, the hernia will be repaired through a small incision made near the belly button. In the case of adults, the hernia is commonly treated through surgical procedures as most men and women feel acute pain at the hernia site. Pregnant women are not operated on for the umbilical hernia unless incarceration or strangulation happens. The doctors repair the hernia with mesh or by sewing the nearby muscle layer.

Normally, a patient is advised to fast before the operation is performed. The operation lasts for an hour. The patient is discharged on the same day with proper medication prescriptions for next week. After complications of surgery are very rare as the surgery is fairly simple. But, some signs may indicate underlying post-surgery complications. Those signs include infection at the site of the hernia, numbness at the operated site, continuous vomiting, and persistent high fever.

When to consult a doctor 

The umbilical hernia in babies needs immediate medical attention when the babies start to cry incessantly in pain. The doctor will examine the infants near the navel to diagnose the severity of the hernia and subsequently decide on the best treatment procedure. If you feel that your baby might have an umbilical hernia, please fill the contact form to get a medical consultation from expert doctors. In adults, immediate doctor consultation is recommended when there is severe abdominal pain, intense abdominal cramping, unusual high fever (Above 100°F), or no proper bowel movements for more than two days. If you or your loved ones face any of these symptoms persistently, then it’s time to consult a doctor. You can consult one of our reputed medical practitioners by filling the form.

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