Umbilical hernias are not always obvious, and it’s possible you’ve been living with one for a while. However, umbilical hernias can threaten your overall health when complications occur. If you notice a bulge in your belly button when you cough, bend or lift objects, you may have an umbilical hernia.
What is an umbilical hernia?
An umbilical hernia is a type of hernia where intra-abdominal contents (usually fat but occasionally intestine) protrude through a defect in the abdominal muscles where the umbilical cord once passed. Umbilical hernias are most commonly found in infants, but they can also be found in adults. In adults umbilical hernias are most common in overweight patients or in women who have given birth.
What are the symptoms of an umbilical hernia?
There are a variety of symptoms that are common with an umbilical hernia:
- A bulge in the belly button or surrounding region (often most visible when coughing or straining)
- Pain at the hernia site
- Sharp abdominal pain and vomiting can mean the hernia is strangulated (note: if you are experiencing these symptoms please seek immediate medical attention as surgery may be required).
How are umbilical hernias treated?
There are two primary types of treatments for umbilical hernias: surgical treatment and non-surgical treatment. The right type of treatment is largely dependent on your age and the severity of your umbilical hernia. Your surgeon can make a recommendation for the best treatment for your needs.
Surgical treatment for umbilical hernia
Surgical treatment or surgical repair is the most common way to address umbilical hernias. There are two primary types of treatment used:
Open hernia repair - Open umbilical hernia repair is the most common surgical treatment for umbilical hernias. In an open hernia repair, an incision is made near the site of the hernia. Your surgeon will then repair the hernia using mesh or by suturing the muscle layer closed to prevent the intestine from entering the muscle tissue.
Laparoscopic hernia repair - In a Laparoscopic umbilical hernia repair a series of small incisions are made near the site of the hernia. Then, a tiny camera called a laparoscope is inserted to help the surgeon see your hernia. Your surgeon will repair your hernia using mesh or by suturing the muscle layer closed to prevent the intestine from entering the muscle tissue.
Non-surgical treatment for umbilical hernia
Non-surgical treatment for umbilical hernias is most common in children. Many umbilical hernias in younger patients will close on their own within the first 2 years of life. In these cases, the hernia will be closely monitored unless surgical intervention becomes necessary. Non-surgical treatment is typically not recommended for adults due to the high risk of serious complications. If you are considering non-surgical treatment, please consult with your doctor.
What should you do if you think you have an umbilical hernia?
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described in this article, we recommend you consult with a doctor right away. If you are in the Puyallup, Washington area, our team would be happy to meet with you. If you are outside of the area, we recommend you contact your healthcare provider and get a referral to a hernia surgeon in your area.
Note: If you are experiencing the outlined symptoms as well as significant pain, vomiting, swelling, or discoloration in the area of the hernia please seek immediate medical attention.