(For adults, see Abdominal Wall Hernias Abdominal Wall Hernias An abdominal wall hernia is an opening or area of weakness in the abdominal wall through which abdominal contents can protrude. An abdominal wall hernia causes a noticeable bulging but little... read more .)
In an umbilical hernia, the small intestine can protrude through the opening when the child coughs or strains during a bowel movement. Many infants have a small umbilical hernia because the opening for the umbilical cord blood vessels did not close completely.
Most of the time, umbilical hernias are present at birth. However they can occur in adults who are obese or pregnant or who have an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen (ascites Ascites Ascites is the accumulation of protein-containing (ascitic) fluid within the abdomen. Many disorders can cause ascites, but the most common is high blood pressure in the veins that bring blood... read more ). It can also occur in people who are born with defects in the middle of their abdominal wall or after abdominal surgery.
Because strangulation is very rare, umbilical hernias are usually not treated and doctors just wait for them to go away on their own. These hernias usually close by 5 years of age.
If a very large umbilical hernia does not close by the time a child is 2 years old, the doctor may advise surgery.
Folk remedies such as taping a coin or other object over the hernia do not work and may irritate the skin.