It's possible to live with an umbilical hernia without realizing it.
Umbilical hernias are not always obvious. While they can be incredibly painful, it's not uncommon for them to be present for years without noticeable symptoms.
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What is an umbilical hernia?
An umbilical hernia is a type of hernia where intra-abdominal contents (usually fat, but occasionally intestine) protrude through an opening in the abdominal muscles where the umbilical cord once was. This type of hernia is most common in infants, but can also be found in adults. Umbilical hernias are more common for overweight people and women who have given birth.
Causes and Risk
An umbilical hernia occurs when the umbilical cord passes through the small opening in the infant's abdominal muscles during gestation. Generally, the opening closes naturally after birth, but if the muscles don't join together correctly in the midline of the abdominal wall, the umbilical hernias can appear after birth and later in life.
If the umbilical hernia manifests in adulthood, it's predominantly due to excess pressure on the abdomen, which can occur from:
- Multiple pregnancies
- Fluid in the abdominal cavity
- Previous abdominal surgery
- Long-term peritoneal dialysis to treat kidney failure
The greatest risk of developing an umbilical hernia is being an infant, especially premature and low birth weight infants. It is equally common in both sexes, but other risk factors for umbilical hernia in adults are the same as listed above. Umbilical hernias are more common in adult women than men.
What are the symptoms of an umbilical hernia?
There are several common symptoms associated with umbilical hernias:
- 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 that can mean the hernia is strangulated. If you are experiencing these symptoms please seek immediate medical attention as emergency surgery may be required
Treatment for umbilical hernias
There are two primary surgical treatment options for umbilical hernias. The right type of treatment for you depends on your health history and the severity of your umbilical hernia. Your surgeon will work with you to determine the best approach for your health.
Open hernia repair
To repair your umbelical hernia, the surgeon will make an incision near the site of your hernia. Your surgeon sutures the hernia opening closed or uses mesh to cover the opening. Closing the opening prevents your intestine from entering through the muscle tissue. Open hernia repair is the most common approach for umbilical hernia treatment.
Laparoscopic hernia repair
With Laparoscopic umbilical hernia repair small incisions are made near the site of the hernia. A laparoscope, which is a tiny camera, is inserted. The Laparoscope helps you surgeon see the hernia. Your hernia repair procedure includes suturing of the hernia opening or placement of mesh at the hernia site to prevent the intestine from entering thourgh the muscle tissue.