Umbilical hernia is a type of abdominal wall hernia, which is mostly congenital; however, it can also develop in adulthood. It is basically a protrusion of intra-abdominal contents due to a weakness in the muscles in or around the navel (belly button). Hence, it is also known as belly button hernia. In most cases, umbilical hernias cease to exist on their own by the time an infant turns one year old; however, those that appear during adulthood need to be treated as they can prove to be quite damaging; cosmetically as well as medically.
One of the primary causes is the weakness in the abdominal wall which can develop at birth or later in life. After birth, an infant's umbilical cord that passes through a small opening in the baby's abdominal muscles gets sealed. However, when the closing does not occur as intended, the abdominal wall becomes weak, thereby leading to umbilical hernia at birth or later in life. Excess pressure on the abdomen, obesity or being overweight may also lead to this condition. Multiple pregnancies or a long labor causes women to develop hernia of the abdomen. Medical conditions like a tumor or excess fluid in the stomach, and lifting heavy objects can also weaken the stomach muscles, resulting in a protrusion.
The most commonly exhibited symptom is a bulge or swelling (protrusion) in and around the muscles of the navel. The hernia may contain fluid, or part or tissue of an organ. The bulge could be very small or a large one. Inflammation around the swelling, or even a bluish tinge to it (sign of strangulated hernia) can occur. Pain is another common symptom, especially while one is bending, coughing, or straining during bowel movement.
The condition can be easily diagnosed during a physical examination; however, your physician may recommend an X-ray and/or an ultrasound to determine the course of your treatment, and also to rule out other complications. Surgery is the only treatment recommended for this condition. The surgeon will administer a local anesthesia, and then make an incision under the belly button. Depending upon the size and the attachment of the surrounding tissues, the surgeon may either push the protrusion back inside the abdomen or remove (surgically cut) it. A piece of mesh over the weak spot may also be added to give extra strength to the weak muscles. Medications to manage pain and inflammation may also be prescribed.
Post-treatment care is very important to heal umbilical hernia. Avoid straining or stretching as it could reopen the wound and increase the swelling. Do not lift heavy objects for the first couple of weeks after surgery. If you are obese, try to get rid of the extra flab. Females who have this complication must have it corrected before pregnancy, as being pregnant will increase the abdominal pressure.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.