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Herniated Belly Button: Causes and Treatment

Herniation of the belly button occurs in both infants and adults, but the incidence is much higher in babies. Small, asymptomatic umbilical hernia often resolves with time, whereas, large and strangulated hernia requires surgical treatment.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: Jan 21, 2018
Belly button hernia is the abnormal protrusion of the abdomen, which is manifested in the navel region. In some cases, it is a congenital problem, present at birth. While in others, it is acquired later, at birth, or after exposure to certain stressful factors. The size of the hernia may vary with respect to the cause, level of stress, and other aspects. Even though it is not a very serious condition, correct diagnosis and timely treatment by a qualified physician is imperative.
Herniated Belly Button: Basic Information
In an individual afflicted with this condition, the navel ring is not closed properly, and some intestinal portion is pushed forward beyond the abdominal wall over the navel or umbilicus. Thus, the belly button appears as a raised portion from the surrounding skin areas. Besides this unsightly swelling, umbilical hernia symptoms are rarely painful. Overall, this is more common among infants than adults.
In Infants
It is common in both baby boys and baby girls. Amongst the reported cases, some are congenital problems, especially those manifested in boys of African descent. In most infants, the condition is manifested after one week of delivery, and usually resolves on its own as the child turns 4-5 years old. This condition is most prominent when the baby cries, coughs, or strains due to some discomfort. Most likely, the swelling subsides as the baby returns to a relaxed state.
In Adults
In adults, the incidence in women is twice more than that in men. Similar to infants, it becomes prominent after exposure to increased stress and pressure in abdominal area. Taking this into account, hernia of the navel usually develops in people who have a medical history of obesity, prolonged cough, and physical stress. Also, athletes who indulge in lifting heavy objects are susceptible to this condition.
After Pregnancy
It is not unusual in women who have been through multiple pregnancies. The causes are quite obvious and include stretching of the abdomen during pregnancy and labor strain at the time of delivery. Nevertheless, women who deliver a baby with cesarean section may also develop post delivery umbilical hernia.
Treatment Options
Therapeutic intervention is necessary only when it causes symptoms of discomfort, persists even after the baby turns 4 years old, and also, if the size increases with time. As with other types of hernia, surgery is the only reliable approach for treatment. The surgery can be done by means of traditional methods or by less invasive laparoscopic procedures. Both techniques involve making small incisions, and hence, the patients can return home on the same day itself. During the recovery time, postoperative care, like regular dressing and not lifting heavy objects, are intimated by the surgeon to avoid infection and ensure complete healing of the wounds. Most probably, the doctor will also prescribe medications to combat any related pain.
On a concluding note, medical experts opine that about 90% of cases disappear within 3 years. Also, as mentioned already, navel hernia resolves on its own in infants as they grow older. The doctor is the best person to examine and confirm whether surgery is required for the patient or not.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.