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What is the Most Common Treatment for Umbilical Hernia in Adults?

By K. Gierok
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The most common treatment for umbilical hernia in adults is rest. These types of hernias typically happen when part of the intestine bulges through the abdominal wall near the belly button, which is where the “umbilical” part of the name comes from. It’s usually caused by weak abdominal muscles, and most of the time the intestines will get back in place all on their own. For this reason, rest is the most commonly recommended treatment; patients are usually advised to spend most of each day being still, avoiding strain, and staying away from activities like strenuous exercise, stretching, and lifting that involve the abdominal muscles. If this doesn’t work, healthcare providers often prescribe a series of pharmaceutical drugs to help speed the body’s own repair process. In extreme cases, surgery may be the best treatment option, though this is usually considered a last resort.

Why Hernias Happen in Adults

Umbilical hernias are usually most common in babies under a year of age, and they typically happen in these cases when the umbilical opening doesn’t quite seal properly after birth. In the case of adult patients, though, the cause is most likely some sort of new abdominal muscle weakness. People who have been through abdominal surgery are some of the most likely candidates, particularly if they haven’t healed properly. Women who have experienced multiple pregnancies in short succession are sometimes also at risk, as are those who are obese. The biggest cause factor is pressure or strain on the abdominal muscles that weakens them to the point that they can no longer stand up against the intestines.

Importance of Rest

The most common form of treatment for umbilical hernia in adults is rest. Patients are usually encouraged to avoid lifting, pushing, or otherwise moving heavy objects. “Rest” in this context is usually pretty broadly understood. People aren’t usually bedridden, but they are usually encouraged to be more conscious of their movements and to spend more time sitting and reclining and doing “still” or “quiet” activities. Those who are required to perform heavy lifting and loading as part of their work may need to take a leave of absence or seek a temporary transfer to a job that involves more sitting in order to ensure full treatment of the condition. Depending on location, people in this position can sometimes apply for short-term disability or other forms of assistance during unemployment, though medical certification is usually required.

Medical Intervention

Rest alone isn’t always enough, though. Patients are usually encouraged to come in for regular check-ups, and if healthcare providers feel that the condition is not improving — or simply that it’s not improving fast enough — they frequently also prescribe drugs to help speed the process along. In most cases, those who are given prescription medications will be required to take the drugs for a significant period of time, often months or years at a time. This both ensures healing and prevents recurrence.

No pharmaceuticals come without side effects and interaction warnings, and patients should work with their physician, nurse, or pharmacist to make sure that the medications will not interfere with other prescription drugs they may be taking or activities like smoking that they engage in. In addition, patients may need to eliminate from their diet certain foods and beverages, such as grapefruit or grapefruit juice, in order to prevent drug interactions.

Surgical Repair Options

More severe or stubborn cases sometimes require surgical intervention. When done properly, surgery to repair an umbilical hernia can make the abdominal wall just as strong as it was prior to the development of the condition. Like most surgeries, though, it carries risks, and it often takes a long time to heal. It isn’t commonly performed on the elderly, the very young, or those who may currently be suffering from a weak immune system. Patients who are interested in surgical repair are often required to undergo medical counseling in order to make sure that surgery is, in fact, a viable option for them, and to be sure that they don’t have medical or lifestyle factors that might jeopardize proper healing.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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