An umbilical hernia refers to the condition where part of the abdominal wall behind the umbilicus is damaged or weakened causing parts of the small intestine or abdominal fat to bulge outward. This bulge may be reduced (pressed back through the hole) and pop out when there is increased intra-abdominal pressure (such as during sneezing, straining, or lifting objects).
Umbilical hernias are estimated to account for 10 percent of all abdominal wall hernias. Some of the risk factors of an umbilical hernia include history of multiple pregnancies, ascites, obesity, and the presence of large tumors in the abdomen. Since umbilical hernias tend to be small and have a narrow neck, there is a higher risk of strangulation and incarceration.
Umbilical hernias can be generally divided into direct (symmetric protrusion through the umbilical ring) and indirect umbilical hernias (protrusion above or below the umbilicus). Direct umbilical hernias are usually seen among infants or neonates while indirect umbilical hernias are more common among adults. A distinction should be made between these two types due to the different treatment and management.
Symptom #1: Umbilical Pain
Umbilical pain occurs when the pain is felt around or behind the umbilicus or umbilical region. This region may contain a small part of the stomach, large intestine, small intestine, and pancreas. There are many disorders that can cause pain around the umbilicus. Examples include appendicitis, gastroenteritis, peptic ulcer disease, acute pancreatitis, and many more.
However, it should be noted that umbilical pain is the commonest symptom seen among patients with an umbilical hernia. It is estimated that approximately 44 percent of patients with an umbilical hernia experience pain at the umbilicus.