Umbilical Hernia

Umbilical Hernia

Umbilical hernia is a condition in which part of the intestine protrudes from the navel. This condition generally occurs in infants and is not dangerous. However, umbilical hernias can also be experienced by adults and can sometimes cause serious complications.

Umbilical hernias usually go away on their own by the time a baby is 1–2 years old, although sometimes it can take longer. If the umbilical hernia does not heal by the age of 5 years, the child is advised to undergo surgery. This step is also recommended for adult umbilical hernia sufferers.

Umbilical Hernia Causes and Risk Factors

Umbilical hernias occur when the abdominal muscles don't close completely. As a result, a small hole remains in the former umbilical cord in the abdominal muscles. From this hole, part of the small intestine can come out and cause a lump in the navel. This lump can arise from infancy or as an adult.

It is not yet known what the exact cause of an umbilical hernia is. However, this condition is known to be more common in babies born prematurely or babies with low birth weight .

In adults, conditions that increase pressure in the abdomen can increase the risk of developing an umbilical hernia. These conditions include:

  • Fluid buildup in the abdominal cavity ( ascites )
  • Excess weight
  • Chronic cough
  • Abdominal surgery scars
  • Abdominal dialysis procedure ( CAPD )
  • Twin pregnancy

Umbilical Hernia Symptoms

Umbilical hernias are characterized by a lump in the belly button  or the surrounding area that is soft in texture. In infants, the lump will only be seen when crying, straining, laughing, or coughing. However, these lumps generally do not cause pain.

While in adults, an umbilical hernia can cause severe pain in the abdomen. Pain can get worse when sufferers cough, sneeze, defecate, or lift heavy objects.

When to go to the doctor

Check with your doctor if you or your child has the above complaints. Treatment should be given immediately if the lump swells, feels painful, changes color, or if it is accompanied by vomiting.

Diagnosis of Umbilical Hernia

The doctor will ask about the patient's symptoms, followed by a physical examination of the lump around the navel. After that, the doctor will try to push the lump into the stomach.

If needed, the doctor will advise the patient to undergo supporting examinations, such as an abdominal ultrasound or CT scan. The goal is to find out the possibility of complications.

Umbilical Hernia Treatment

In most cases, babies with umbilical hernias will heal on their own after 1–2 years of age or at most 5 years. However, surgery by a surgeon or pediatric surgeon will be recommended if the following conditions are present:

  • The lump hurts
  • The lump does not shrink after the child is 1-2 years old
  • The diameter of the lump is greater than 1.5 cm
  • The lump has not disappeared after the child is 5 years old
  • Pinched hernia or causing symptoms of intestinal obstruction , such as vomiting, loss of appetite, flatulence, or unable to pass gas

Surgery in patients with umbilical hernias is done by making an incision below the navel. After that, the doctor will reinsert the hernia into the abdominal cavity, and close the incision with stitches. In adult patients, the doctor will use synthetic mesh to strengthen the abdominal wall.

Umbilical Hernia Complications

Infants and children who have an umbilical hernia rarely experience complications. However, complications can occur if the small intestine that comes out is squeezed and cannot re-enter the abdominal cavity.

The pinching of the small intestine will cause the intestinal tissue to lack oxygen and nutrients from the blood. This condition can trigger tissue damage and cause pain. If the supply of blood to the tissue is stopped, tissue death can occur which can lead to infection in the abdominal cavity ( peritonitis ).

Umbilical Hernia Prevention

Not yet known how to prevent umbilical hernias, especially in newborns. In adults, there are several steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of an enlarged umbilical hernia, namely:

  • Drink lots and eat fibrous foods , so that constipation does not occur which can exacerbate umbilical hernias
  • Wearing loose clothing and low-waisted pants, to prevent irritation of the hernia
  • Do not lift heavy weights, because it can compress and enlarge the hernia
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