Causes Of Umbilical Hernia: Symptoms And Treatment Options

An umbilical hernia is a bulge that protrudes out from umbilicus or the belly button. It generally occurs since birth and most commonly observed in children, but sometimes adults are also affected. Umbilical cord is the life line for the fetus in the womb. The cord is attached to the abdominal muscles through a small opening.

Soon after birth, the small hole in the abdominal muscles closes. But occasionally the muscles do not join together and the contents of abdomen such as intestine pop out from the weak muscles around the umbilicus leading to what we refer as umbilical hernia.

The bulge is painless and becomes prominent when laughing, lifting, or from any internal pressure in abdomen. Umbilical hernia in majority of children heals as they grow. However, if it enlarges in size or becomes painful it may need treatment.

Causes Of Umbilical Hernia In Infants And Adults

An umbilical hernia develops when a part of bowel or fatty tissues projects out from a weakened area of abdominal muscles around the umbilicus.

The condition is common in infants and children, but it also develops in adults. Premature babies, low birth weight babies are at greater risk of developing umbilical hernia. Boys and girls are equally affected with the condition. Umbilical hernia since childhood is caused as a result of weak spot in the muscles near the umbilical area.

Umbilical hernia can also develop later in life in adults. It develops when increased pressure is exerted on the weakened abdominal wall muscles. Factors responsible are:

  • Overweight
  • Multiple pregnancies
  • Abdominal surgery
  • People with chronic cough or suffering from bronchial asthma, emphysema.
  • Raised fluid in abdominal cavity.

Symptoms Of Umbilical Hernia

Umbilical hernia is seen as a soft bulge protruding from the umbilicus. It is more noticeable when the baby cries, laughs, or while straining for urine and stool. The swelling or bulge becomes less when baby lies down.

Umbilical hernia can be small or large depending on the weakness of the muscles through which the abdominal content comes out. Usually umbilical hernia is painless in babies. However, adults may have discomfort and pain. Umbilical hernia is present more in adult women than men. The bulge may recede if you press the umbilicus.

Sometimes the intestine or fatty tissue may not recede back and they may be entrapped in the small opening of the muscles. This is an emergency situation called strangulated umbilical hernia. Patient may complain of severe pain and redness in and around umbilical area. The bulge is clearly visible and it does not recede even when you press it with your fingers. Patient may start vomiting continuously. Strangulated hernia needs immediate hospitalization.

Treatment Options For Umbilical Hernia

Generally umbilical hernia in children heals after a period of time without any treatment. Surgical repair may be thought of only when the hernia is too large in size and it produces pain and discomfort. This mostly occurs in adults, but sometimes children can also suffer from strangulated umbilical hernia.

Certain home measures often help to receded umbilical hernia.

  • If you are obese, reduce your weight. Eat more vegetables and fruits. Avoid fried food, dairy products, white flour, refined sugar preparations, etc.
  • Walk for half hour daily.
  • Yoga exercises are beneficial for making the abdominal muscles strong.
  • Avoid lifting heavy weight, avoid alcohol and smoking.