Many people have a hernia in their umbilicus. These are often called an umbilical hernia or a belly button hernia which may have been present for their whole life but may have only grown large enough to notice as they get older. Many women first notice their protruding belly button when they are pregnant, and it can be quite uncomfortable.
So what is an umbilical hernia?
A hernia is a gap in the muscle layer of the abdomen which can allow the omentum or some bowel to poke through it, making a swelling under the skin. Sometimes, the skin can stretch up quite dramatically, but the hernia will not break through. Most of the time, the discomfort is because of the stretch on the muscles. If it has become uncomfortable, take a few minutes to lie down in a comfortable place and relax. Gently massage the soft lump to encourage it to slip back behind the muscles, into the abdominal cavity.
What to do if it hurts:
If it remains painful, seek medical advice: if the pain is severe, you may need to go to an Emergency Department, but usually it can wait for a more convenient review by your General Practitioner. Umbilical hernias generally remain comfortable if they are not growing larger, and if they are not blocking your bowel.
The hernia can be tiny, or several centimetres across.
Under the skin, if we looked at its profile, we could see the contents of the abdomen poking through the muscles something like this.
Although the lump under the skin can be quite large, the gap in the muscle, shown here in pink, is usually quite small. No wonder it is uncomfortable.
Umbilical hernia repair:
If a hernia is impacting your comfort, or you are worried that some bowel might get caught in it, you may want to consider an umbilical hernia repair. There are no drugs, or clever exercises which will make this gap heal by itself. A surgeon [link to sue] can stitch the gap closed, and this is usually reinforced with a piece of synthetic mesh to give it some support while it heals and provide a scaffold for your scar to grow into. The safest mesh we use remains in the body permanently, which makes it much less likely that the hernia will ever come back. Download this factsheet for more information.
Will repairing my hernia disrupt my life?
Hernia repair is performed under a general anaesthetic in a hospital, but overnight stay is not always required. There will be a little bruising and swelling for three to five days afterwards, and most people are able to return to work within two weeks. Of course, this depends on the size of the hernia and the type of work you do.
If you have concerns about a hernia, whether it be an umbilical hernia in babies through to adults, at Western Surgical Health we have leading surgeons in Perth, both male and female that can review your situation. Contact us now for more information.