An umbilical hernia, a medical condition that is most often found in infants, is noticeable by the bulge or swell it causes around the belly button. The most common umbilical hernia symptoms revolve around this swelling. The bulge is between approximately 0.39 inches (1 cm) and 1.96 inches (5 cm) in width and is usually painless in infants, but it is more visible when the infant is crying, sitting up or straining. When the infant is lying down or quiet, though, it might become less visible or disappear. In adults, one of the umbilical hernia symptoms that might occur is abdominal discomfort.
This medical condition is common. In the womb, a baby is connected to its mother through an umbilical cord, which is attached to a small opening in the baby’s abdominal muscles. The opening is supposed to close before or after birth, but when it does not completely do so, it results in an umbilical hernia. Infants who are black, have low birth weight or are premature are typically more likely to get an umbilical hernia. In adults, those who have had multiple pregnancies, do heavy lifting or are obese are more apt to acquire the condition.
The most common umbilical hernia symptoms are generally not severe, but complications can occur. Intestines can get trapped in the opening, resulting in a condition called incarcerated hernia. This can lead to reduced blood supply in the intestines. Loss of blood supply altogether, a condition called strangulated hernia, can result in tissue death or infection. Both an incarcerated hernia and strangulated hernia require immediate medical attention.
When someone has an umbilical hernia, there might be serious signs that he should see a doctor. Some of these signs, in conjunction with umbilical hernia symptoms, are if the individual seems to be in pain or vomits. In addition, the bulge might be discolored, overly swollen or tender.
An umbilical hernia is diagnosed through a physical examination. Usually, the hernia closes by itself by the time the affected child is about four years old. If it does not, a doctor will have to close it during surgery. Some children might have to get the surgery before 4 years of age; this is usually under dire circumstances. It is usually recommended that an adult with an umbilical hernia receive the surgery.
During surgery, the doctor will reposition any intestine or tissue, if necessary, into the abdominal cavity and then stitch the opening closed. This is done through a small incision beneath the belly button while the patient is under general anesthesia. The chances of a recurrence of an umbilical hernia after surgery are slim.