When body tissue or an internal organ pops out of its normal place within the body, it's called a hernia. A navel hernia---also known as an umbilical hernia--can often be seen in newborn babies, but they can affect people of any age. They occur when a part of the intestine pushes through a weak spot in the abdominal wall, causing a bulge. Navel hernia symptoms in adults often differ from those in children.
Some people are born with weak abdominal walls, making them prone to hernias. Age can also be a contributing factor to the wall's weakening. But the majority of navel hernias are seen in people who are overweight and in women who have just given birth. The Mayo Clinic suggests that women who have had multiple pregnancies may also be at risk. Ascites, which is a condition that causes excess fluid to collect in the abdominal cavity, can also be an underlying cause.
The most obvious navel hernia symptom in adults is the unexplained bulge around the navel. The bulge may be more noticeable when lifting heavy objects, coughing or otherwise straining. The skin may also be red or sensitive to the touch. If you don't see the lump, you may feel it when you push on your navel, though you may not feel it or see it when lying down.
A doctor can usually detect a navel hernia during an examination. An ultrasound may also be given to determine the best course of treatment.
The doctor will lay the patient on her back and try to push, or reduce, the hernia back into place. If this doesn't work, the doctor will usually recommend surgery. During the surgical procedure an incision is made at the bottom of the navel, and the herniated tissue is returned to its proper place in the abdomen. Navel hernia surgery is typically performed on an outpatient basis.
There's always a chance that a piece of the intestine will become stuck in the bulging position. At this point the doctor will not be able to push it back in, and it's referred to as a strangulated hernia. The blood flow in a strangulated hernia will stop, causing pain, nausea and vomiting. Emergency surgery is needed to treat this problem.