A primary symptom of an umbilical hernia is a bulge near the navel that may appear only during straining or disappear when relaxed. Individuals should seek emergency medical care if this bulge becomes painful, tender, swollen or discolored. These changes can be signs of more serious complications, such as intestinal incarceration, in which blood supply to the herniated tissue is limited or cut off. This can cause tissue death, infection and potentially life-threatening situations, explains Mayo Clinic.
Umbilical hernias occur where the umbilical cord passed through the abdominal muscles at birth. In some cases, this opening does not entirely close, allowing part of the intestine to protrude, either as an infant or later in life. Over time, excessive abdominal pressure can also cause an umbilical hernia in adults. Sources of this pressure include obesity, multiple pregnancies, fluid in the abdominal cavity, previous abdominal surgery and long-term peritoneal dialysis, explains Mayo Clinic.
In children, treatment for umbilical hernias rarely involves surgery, with the hernias often closing on their own by the age of 2. In adults, surgery is more common, as complications occur more often in adults. The surgeon makes a small incision at the base of the belly button, moves the protruding tissue back inside the abdomen, may place mesh inside the incision to strengthen the abdominal wall and stitches the opening in the abdominal wall closed.