Umbilical hernia

An umbilical hernia is a bulge on or around the naval (belly button) which is usually painless but can cause complications.

By Wallace Health I Medically reviewed by Adrian Roberts.
Page last reviewed: October 2018 I Next review due: October 2021

What is an umbilical hernia?

An umbilical hernia appears when fat, tissue or a loop of bowel pushes through the muscles around your naval. These muscles sometimes have a weakness at the naval, allowing an umbilical hernia to push through.

An umbilical hernia can affect adults, children and babies. Umbilical hernias in adults tend to be above or below the naval, when it’s sometimes referred to as a paraumbilical hernia.

Umbilical hernias are common in babies and are usually in the centre of the naval and disappear naturally by the age of two.

In adults and older children, an umbilical hernia won’t go away without treatment and can be successfully repaired with surgery.

How to tell if you have an umbilical hernia

There are very few umbilical hernia symptoms, other than a bulge (hernia) around the centre of your abdomen (stomach). This bulge may disappear when pressed or when you lie down and you may also notice discomfort around your naval.

Occasionally, an umbilical hernia can become trapped (incarcerated) and/or the blood supply cut off (strangulated). Symptoms of an incarcerated or strangulated umbilical hernia include:

  • Pain and tenderness around the hernia’s bulge
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A change in the colour of your hernia

If you or your child has any of these symptoms, seek urgent medical assistance. Incarcerated hernias and strangulated hernias are serious complications and require emergency treatment.

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms

You can book an appointment with a Spire private GP today.

Diagnosis and tests for an umbilical hernia

If you suspect your baby has an umbilical hernia, ask your GP for a diagnosis. If the lump is still there when your child’s approaching school age, your GP may recommend an umbilical hernia repair.

Umbilical hernias in adults usually require surgery to reduce the risk of complications. If you think you have an umbilical hernia, make an appointment to see your GP.

Your GP will examine your abdomen and may refer you for a CT scan or ultrasound to check for complications.

If your GP recommends umbilical hernia repair, they’ll refer you to a consultant surgeon, who’ll discuss your options with you.

Causes of an umbilical hernia

You’re more likely to develop an umbilical hernia if you’re:

  • Pregnant - especially if you’re pregnant with more than one baby or have had multiple pregnancies
  • Overweight
  • Suffering from a long-term (chronic) cough
  • Regularly lifting or pushing heavy objects

Common treatments for an umbilical hernia

The only treatment for an umbilical hernia is umbilical surgery repair.

This is a relatively simple surgical procedure which is sometimes carried out with keyhole surgery. During umbilical hernia repair, your surgeon will remove the hernia and strengthen the weakness in your abdominal muscles with mesh.

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