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Umbilical Hernia in Adults

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An umbilical hernia occurs at the weak spot of the belly button and fatty tissue under the abdominal wall or a part of the intestine can bulge through. Umbilical hernias are common in children but occur in adults too. Here, we take a look at the symptoms of an umbilical hernia, why one might occur, and how they are treated.

Umbilical Hernia Symptoms

Umbilical hernias in adults can occur without causing symptoms. They may manifest as a bulge in or near the belly button that may enlarge with coughing or straining, pain around the hernia and even constipation if the hernia is large enough. A sharp pain that is accompanied with vomiting can be a sign of a strangulated hernia and is a medical emergency.

What Causes An Umbilical Hernia?

In adults, the risk of an umbilical hernia developing increases with

  • Being obese
  • Lifting or moving heavy objects
  • Coughing persistently
  • Having multiple pregnancies, twins or triplets 

How Are Umbilical Hernias Diagnosed?

Hernias are diagnosed during a physical examination by a doctor or a healthcare provider. They will look for a bulge or swelling around your belly button area. Occasionally an ultrasound scan for clarification may be required. 

Treatment For Umbilical Hernias 

Treatment for umbilical hernias will depend on each specific case including the size of the defect and the risks of an anaesthetic. Most are treated with surgery to avoid the risk of leaving the defect and of subsequent bowel entrapment. On occasion such incarceration of bowel can result in a strangulation an impaired blood supply which is life threatening. 

The surgery most often involves general anaesthesia. A small incision is made usually below belly button to expose the abdominal wall and the defect. Protruding intestine is placed back into the abdominal cavity. The defect is either stitched or a patch of mesh placed on its under surface with the abdominal wall closed over it. The use of mesh in this setting is safe and widely employed in the UK to secure the defect providing a robust and durable repair. The vast majority are performed as day cases.

When Might I Need An Emergency Umbilical Hernia Operation?

If you think that your hernia has become stuck or strangulated, then you will need to seek immediate medical attention. This can sometimes become life-threatening, which means you will need an emergency hernia operation. The signs of this include:

  • If the hernia has enlarged 
  • If you’re experiencing fever 
  • Redness around the area
  • Sudden or severe pain in the area 

Seek Medical Advice From Us 

If you have concerns about an umbilical hernia or think you may have one but have yet to be diagnosed, then please contact us for more advice and support. We have a wealth of medical experience and knowledge in umbilical hernias and the appropriate hernia treatment.


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