What is Umbilicus?
Umbilicus is also known as navel or belly button. The tissue underneath the umbilicus supports the umbilical cord, which is a channel to supply nourishment to embryo and fetus from mother’s placenta. After birth the umbilical cord is cut from the fetus and fetal skin forms a scar with a significant dimple called umbilicus.
Belly Button Pain or Umbilical Pain: What Causes Pain Around Belly Button?
Belly Button Pain or Umbilical Pain could be related to diseases of umbilicus. Most of the umbilical pain are caused by diseases of intestine and diseases related to umbilicus.1 Referred pain or radiating pain is felt over umbilical area but the primary disease may be not be close to umbilicus. Appendicitis causes pain in lower right abdomen and pain is also referred to umbilicus.
Causes Of Belly Button Pain Or Umbilical Pain2–
- Umbilical Hernia
- Peptic Ulcer
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Mesenteric Artery Ischemia
Soft tissue swelling that protrudes out through umbilicus is known as hernia. Umbilical soft tissue swelling caused by hernia contains peritoneum, mesentery and small bowel. The swelling disappears when content of the hernia is squeezed into abdominal cavity. Umbilical hernia increases in size following coughing and sneezing. Most umbilical hernia causes mild to moderate belly button pain. Obstructed Or Strangulated Hernia- Hernia is known as obstructed hernia when the content of the hernia cannot be squeezed into abdominal cavity. Obstructed hernia is extremely painful. If obstruction continues the pinch causes strangulation of blood supply to peritoneum, mesentry and intestine that is herniating.
Symptoms of Umbilical Hernia-
- Swelling over umbilicus
- Pain around belly button or umbilicus
- Skin discoloration
- Nausea and vomiting
Irritable Bowel Syndrome-
Irritable bowel syndrome is observed in anxious or depressed individual. Symptoms become severe following bacterial infection of digestive system. Symptoms often gets worst when individual had intolerance or hypersensitivity to food.
Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome-
- Abdominal and umbilical pain
- Abdominal bloating
- Mucus in Stool
Mesenteric Artery Ischemia3–
Peritoneum covers the abdominal wall and viscera. The peritoneum that covers abdominal wall is known as parietal peritoneum and section that covers viscera is known as mesentery. Arterial blood vessels that supplies blood to intestine lies in mesentery. The blockade of mesenteric artery causes lack of blood supply to intestine. The condition is known as mesenteric artery ischemia.
Symptoms of Mesenteric Artery Ischemia-
- Abdominal and Umbilical Pain
- Tender Abdomen
- Blood in Stool
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Abdominal Bloating
Chronic cases of constipation can cause pain around the belly button.
Stomach and duodenal ulcer is known as peptic ulcer. Ulcer within stomach mucosal membrane is known as gastric ulcer. Pain caused by gastric ulcer is often felt over umbilicus. Similarly, duodenal ulcer pain is also felt over belly button or umbilical area.
Infection of stomach and intestine is known as gastroenteritis. Patient suffering with gastroenteritis often feels pain around belly button or umbilical area.
Infection or inflammation of peritoneum causes severe abdominal pain. Mesentery inflammation around umbilicus causes pain around belly button or umbilicus.
What is Referred Belly Button Pain or Referred Umbilical Pain
On examination if the diseased organ is stimulated during palpation, the pain is felt at a different area than the anatomical area of diseased organ. Such pain is known as referred pain. Appendix is anatomically placed under right lower abdomen. Inflammation of appendix is called appendicitis. Increased pressure over inflamed appendix during examination causes feeling of severe referred pain over umbilical area. The pain felt over umbilical area is a referred pain from diseased appendix called appendicitis. Similarly, several other diseases causes referred pain over umbilicus. Radiating belly button pain or radiating umbilical pain is different than the pain felt by the diseases of umbilicus.
Referred Pain is induced by pressure or movement of inflamed organ and pain is felt at distant area. Radiating pain is continuous and felt at distant organ even at rest. Irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, and appendicitis causes radiating pain to the belly button or umbilical area of abdomen.
Causes of Referred Belly Button Pain or Umbilical Pain-
- Appendicitis– Appendicitis causes pain over right lower abdomen and pain often referred to the belly button or umbilical area.
- Celiac Disease.
- Colon Cancer.
- Crohn’s Disease.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
- Mesenteric Artery Ischemia.
- Ruptured Spleen.
- Umbilical Hernia.
- Wilm’s Tumor.
Non-Referred and Non-Radiating Belly Button Pain or Umbilical Pain
Non-infectious diseases involving skin, subcutaneous tissue, muscles and viscera near umbilicus causes belly button pain or umbilical pain. Non-infectious and non-radiating belly button pain or umbilical pain is also caused by wearing tight pants or dresses for long duration. Such pain is mild to moderate pain or discomfort felt around belly button or the umbilical area. Abdominal muscle tear around umbilicus can also cause severe belly button pain or pain around the umbilicus.
Causes of Non-Referred and Non-Radiating Belly Button Pain or Umbilical Pain-
Diseases of Skin-
Disease of Subcutaneous Tissue-
Disease of Abdominal Muscles-
- Abdominal muscle spasm
- Wearing tight trouser causes pressure sore.
When To Consult Physician for Belly Button Pain or Umbilical Pain
You should consult primary care physician if belly button pain or umbilical pain continues for over 48 hours and not responding to over the counter pain medication.
If you are suffering with vomiting, diarrhea and severe belly button pain or umbilical pain for 24 hours then you should go to ER or see primary care physician.
You should go to ER if you cannot squeeze swelling into abdominal cavity and pain around belly button or umbilical pain become severe when you touch the hernia.
If you see discoloration of skin because obstructed or strangulated hernia then you should immediately visit ER or see primary care physician.
Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd edition.
Walker HK, Hall WD, Hurst JW, editors., Boston: Butterworths; 1990.
Evaluation of Acute Abdominal Pain in Adults
SARAH L. CARTWRIGHT, MD, and MARK P. KNUDSON, MD, MSPH, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Am Fam Physician. 2008 Apr 1;77(7):971-978.
Mesenteric Artery Ischemia
Alin Gragossian; Patrick Dacquel., Last Update: February 28, 2019.
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