A clinically diagnosed herniated navel in children and adults can have different causes. Although any hernia in general may not be life threatening, in children they may present different issues than in adults (whose hernias are normally due to muscular stress).
Herniated Navel in Children
Hernias, a term used for any protrusion through the muscle lining of the abdomen or other bodily areas, are protuberances caused by a section of intestine pushing its way through a weak muscle layer. In many cases, hernias can be pushed back into place, and the body will heal properly.
Infants with hernias require more thorough examinations. If an infant’s navel protrudes this may be a normal “outie” (a navel that sticks out instead versus the desired depressed navel, commonly called an “inny”) seen when the umbilicus drops off. In male children, however, a herniated navel may be a sign of an undescended testicle.
There are two approaches for treating children with herniated navels. The first is to allow nature to take its course – most herniated navels are unsightly, but generally disappear by the age of four. More critically in infants is that a herniated navel may inadvertently become infected. A discharge is expected from the umbilical scar site during the first 24 hours after birth. However, prolonged infection, even after cleaning with rubbing alcohol, can lead to liver infections which can cause death.
Home-remedies of the past meant pressing the “outie” back in place and taping a hard object, usually a coin, over the navel. This prevented a prolapsed navel, allowing it to develop normally. Doctors today, of course, would recommend a more refined appliance – the net result is the same.
Herniated Navel in Adults
The distension of a navel (an “outie”) in an adult may mean something more serious has happened. If the patient previously had a properly recessed navel and it is suddenly popping out, it is a good indicator of an umbilical hernia. This is a stress-related hernia where a portion of the large intestine pokes through the abdominal area behind the navel, causing it to invert and stick out.
The most commonly seen herniated navels in women are those associated with pregnancy: the “turkey baster” indicator (colloquialism for the “popping out” like a baking turkey’s plastic “doneness” indicator pops out at optimum temperature). These are unsightly, but generally return to their normal inverted position after birth. Failure of the navel to return to its former position might require a doctor’s visit for advice.