An umbilical hernia occurs when intestine, fat, or fluid pushes through a weak spot in the belly. This causes a bulge near the belly button, or navel.
Umbilical hernias often occur in infants. Most of the time, they close on their own by the time a baby is 1 year old. But sometimes surgery is needed. To learn more about hernias in children, see the topic Umbilical Hernia in Children.
Umbilical hernias can also occur in adults. They can happen in people who have health problems that create pressure in the belly, such as being overweight, being pregnant, or having too much fluid in the belly (ascites). Other health problems can also lead to umbilical hernia. These include a chronic cough, chronic constipation, and problems urinating because of an oversized prostate gland. Most of the time, a doctor can diagnose an umbilical hernia during a physical exam.
An umbilical hernia tends to get bigger over time. You may need surgery to treat it, especially if it gets bigger or becomes painful.
Without treatment, there is a risk of a strangulated hernia, which means that part of the intestine or fat is trapped and blood supply to the tissue is cut off. This can be very painful. It requires emergency surgery. Call your doctor right away if the bulge becomes swollen, painful, tender, or discolored.