Umbilical hernia

An umbilical hernia occurs when part of the intestine protrudes through an opening in the abdominal muscles. Umbilical hernia is a common and typically harmless condition. Umbilical hernias are most common in infants, but they can affect adults as well. In an infant, an umbilical hernia may be especially evident when the infant cries, causing the baby's bellybutton to protrude. This is a classic sign of an umbilical hernia.

Many umbilical hernias close on their own by age 1, though some take longer to heal. To prevent complications, umbilical hernias that don't disappear by age 3 or those that appear during adulthood may need surgical repair.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications

An umbilical hernia creates a soft swelling or bulge near the navel (umbilicus). If your baby has an umbilical hernia, you may notice the bulge only when he or she cries, coughs or strains. The bulge may disappear when your baby is calm or lies on his or her back.

Umbilical hernias in children are usually painless. Umbilical hernias that appear during adulthood may cause abdominal discomfort.

When to see a doctor

If you suspect that your baby has an umbilical hernia, talk with your child's pediatrician. Seek emergency care if your baby has an umbilical hernia and:

  • Your baby appears to be in pain
  • Your baby begins to vomit
  • The bulge becomes tender, swollen or discolored

Similar guidelines apply to adults. Talk with your doctor if you have a bulge near your navel. Seek emergency care if the bulge becomes painful or tender. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can help prevent complications.

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