An umbilical hernia occurs when a small loop of intestine bulges out of the belly button. Although umbilical hernias are more common in children, it can also occur in adults. Increased pressure in the abdomen and decreased strength of abdominal muscles are the main two risk factors for the adult-onset umbilical hernias. Weight gain and obesity where the excess fat increases the pressure inside the abdomen is the most common risk factor. Similarly, conditions like constipation, chronic cough or benign prostate hypertrophy (BPH) can also increase the abdominal pressure by straining.
Umbilical hernias are typically repaired for cosmetic reasons as an elective surgery. They rarely cause health-threatening complications. The defect in the abdominal muscle wall can trap the hernia content causing damage to the tissue. It is called an incarcerated hernia. Patients usually experience increasing pain, fever, constipation and vomiting. If the trapped hernia content shows signs of compromised blood flow, called a strangulated hernia. Emergency surgery is often required.