Our bellybutton is also called umbilicus. An umbilical hernia is a defect through the bellybutton which allows the protrusion of internal organs of the abdominal cavity through the defect. Such internal organs may include abdominal fat or even a loop of bowel (intestine).
It is often first noticed as a painless swelling over the belly button that becomes more noticeable in an upright position, and reduces on lying down. It is usually not painful; at most a mild ache may be felt. However, when the pain is severe, this may indicate a serious complication of the condition whereby the bowel loop that protrude through the defect becomes deprived of blood supply. Equally ominous is distension of the abdomen accompanied by vomiting as this may represent another complication of the condition, whereby the bowel loop that protrudes through the defect becomes blocked.
It is advisable to seek medical attention whenever an umbilical hernia is suspected or found. Though the person may not experience much discomfort, surgery is usually recommended to prevent the serious complications of the condition from happening.
The doctor is usually able to clinch the diagnosis with physical examination. The lump is typically over the umbilicus. It will reduce on lying down. On standing or on coughing, the lump will protrude out. The surgeon will also try to measure the size of the defect – this will help him in his surgical planning.
Surgery is the definitive treatment for umbilical hernia. The operation can be done either through a small incision directly over the hernia or with keyhole surgery. The aim is to close the defect. The closure can either be done through simple stitching or to use a mesh to cover the hole.
This arises from a natural defect in the abdominal wall just underneath the umbilicus that every person is born with. However in some individuals, this defect can enlarge over time which leads to a lump being noticeable over the belly button. Any condition that increases the intra-abdominal pressure can cause this defect to widen. Common examples include pregnancy, chronic constipation, obesity.
Whilst not completely preventable, constipation, straining when passing urine, carrying heavy weights or a chronic cough may aggravate the condition. In all these situations, there is an increase in the pressure within the abdomen, especially when the person strains. This increase in pressure will slowly enlarge the defect and worsen the condition.