Umbilical hernias are fairly common in children. A hernia at birth pushes the belly button out. It shows more when a baby cries because the pressure from crying makes the hernia bulge out more.
In infants, the problem is not usually treated with surgery. Most of the time, the umbilical hernia shrinks and closes on its own by the time a child is 3 or 4 years old.
Umbilical hernia repair may be needed in children for these reasons:
- The hernia is painful and stuck in the bulging position.
- Blood supply to the intestine is affected.
- The hernia has not closed by age 3 or 4.
- The defect is very large or unacceptable to parents because of how it makes their child look. Even in these cases, the doctor will probably suggest waiting until your child is 3 or 4 to see if the hernia closes on its own.
Umbilical hernias are also fairly common in adults. They are seen more in overweight people and in women, especially after pregnancy. They tend to get bigger over time.
Smaller hernias with no symptoms sometimes can be watched. Surgery may pose greater risks for patients with serious medical problems.
Without surgery, there is a risk that some fat or part of the intestine will get stuck (incarcerated) in the hernia and become impossible to push back in. This is usually painful. If the blood supply to this area is cut off (strangulation), urgent surgery is needed. You may experience nausea or vomiting, and the bulging area may turn blue or a darker color.
To avoid this problem, surgeons often recommend repairing the umbilical hernia in adults. Surgery is also used for hernias that are getting larger or are painful. Surgery secures the weakened abdominal wall tissue (fascia) and closes any holes.
Get medical care right away if you have a hernia that does not get smaller when you are lying down or that you cannot push back in.