Children experiencing a lump in the belly button may have a congenital anomaly, while belly button lumps in adults may be caused by a hernia, an inflammatory condition, or a mass. Read more below to learn about lumps inside and around the belly button.
Lump on the Belly Button Hallmarks
Lumps on or around the belly button can occur in both children and adults. The umbilicus, navel, or belly button is a remnant of the umbilical cord, a structure that provides vascular flow between the fetus and placenta during pregnancy.
Characteristics in infants and children
Lumps in this area are most often congenital anomalies, meaning they are problems with development that are present at birth. These congenital umbilical lumps may be associated with symptoms in an infant or young child such as:
Characteristics in adults
Nevertheless, lumps on the belly button, though uncommon, can be acquired at an older age and be associated with symptoms such as:
8 Causes of a Lump On The Belly Button
Causes of lumps on the belly button are broad and can range in severity. These causes can be related to developmental problems that are present at birth or acquired for a variety of reasons. These causes can be most easily grouped into the categories below.
A hernia occurs when part of an organ pushes through an opening or weakness in the muscles or tissues that surround it. The protruding organ can result in a noticeable lump or bulge in the area.
- Umbilical: The belly button is a very common place for hernias to occur given that it was a natural opening in utero (that is, the umbilical ring) for the umbilical vessels to pass from the mother into the fetus. This opening closes spontaneously over time, but can be a weak point that allows hernias to occur. In children, umbilical hernias are detected during the newborn abdominal examination, particularly when there is increased intra-abdominal pressure impacting a weak spot. Umbilical hernias usually resolve in the toddler years but can persist into adulthood.
- Surgical: Surgical incisions create weaknesses in the abdominal wall. After surgery, the abdominal wall is closed; however, weight gain, pregnancy, or excessive activity too soon after the procedure can result in an increase in abdominal pressure and stretching of the incision. This makes it easy for contents to protrude through the incision, resulting in a hernia.
- Other: Epigastric or Spigelian hernias can occur in adults due to conditions that increase intra-abdominal pressure, such as exercise that involves lifting weights, coughing, being obese, smoking, having diabetes, and old age.
A mass can develop near the belly button for the following reasons.
- Developmental: In infants, there are very specific masses that can form in the umbilical area, such as umbilical polyps. These polyps are firm masses that develop from embryologic remnants such as the uroepithelium. Granulomas in the umbilical area form from excess tissue that persists after cord separation and present like .
- Benign: In adults, there are multiple benign masses that can develop in the umbilical area. Benign masses develop from cells dividing uncontrollably; however, they do not spread elsewhere. Benign lesions include masses such as hamartomas, neurofibromas, and lipomas.
- Malignant: Conversely, malignant masses are those that invade surrounding tissues and spread to other organs of the body. They can include masses such as melanoma and different types of carcinomas.
Inflammatory causes that can result in a lump on the belly button include the following.
- Infectious: The skin is home to a bacterium known as Staphylococcus aureus (Staph). Although it is a normal component of the skin flora, it is the leading cause of human bacterial infection. It can enter the skin in small lesions or cuts and result in a pus-filled abscess.
- Cysts: Cysts are sacs that can be filled with fluid, air, or other material that can form in any part of the body. Cysts that form in the epidermis of the skin often present as skin-colored nodules. See an image .
A cyst is a small sac or lump, filled with fluid, air, fat, or other material, that begins to grow somewhere in the body for no apparent reason. A skin cyst is one that forms just beneath the skin.
It's believed that skin cysts form around trapped keratin cells – the cells that form the relatively tough outer layer of the skin.
These cysts are not contagious.
Anyone can get a skin cyst, but they are most common in those who are over age 18, have acne, or have injured the skin.
Symptoms include the appearance of a small, rounded lump under the skin. Cysts are normally painless unless infected, when they will be reddened and sore and contain pus.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination. A small cyst can be left alone, though if it is unsightly or large enough to interfere with movement it can be removed in a simple procedure done in a doctor's office. An infected cyst must be treated so that the infection does not spread.
Top Symptoms: skin-colored armpit bump, marble sized armpit lump, small armpit lump
Symptoms that always occur with skin cyst: skin-colored armpit bump
Urgency: Wait and watch
Lipoma is a word that translates as "fatty tumor," but a lipoma is not cancer. It is simply a growth of fat between the muscle layer and the skin above it.
The exact cause is not known. The condition does run in families and is associated with other unusual syndromes such as adiposis dolorosa, which is similar. Lipomas most often appear after age 40.
Symptoms include a soft, easily moveable lump beneath the skin, about two inches across. A lipoma is painless unless its growth is irritating the nerves around it. They are most often found on the back, neck, and abdomen, and sometimes the arms and upper legs.
It is a good idea to have any new or unusual growth checked by a medical provider, just to make certain it is benign.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination, biopsy, and imaging such as ultrasound or CT scan.
Most of the time, treatment is not necessary unless the lipoma is unsightly or is interfering with other structures. It can be removed through surgery or liposuction.
Top Symptoms: skin-colored groin bump, marble sized groin lump, small groin lump
Symptoms that always occur with lipoma: skin-colored groin bump
Urgency: Wait and watch
A skin abscess is a large pocket of pus that has formed just beneath the skin. It is caused by bacteria getting under the skin, usually through a small cut or scratch, and beginning to multiply. The body fights the invasion with white blood cells, which kill some of the infected tissue but form pus within the cavity that remains.
Symptoms include a large, red, swollen, painful lump of pus anywhere on the body beneath the skin. There may be fever, chills, and body aches from the infection.
If not treated, there is the risk of an abscess enlarging, spreading, and causing serious illness.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination.
A small abscess may heal on its own, through the body's immune system. But some will need to be drained or lanced in a medical provider's office so that the pus can be cleaned out. Antibiotics are usually prescribed.
Keeping the skin clean, and using only clean clothes and towels, will help to make sure that the abscess does not recur.
Top Symptoms: rash with bumps or blisters, red rash, red skin bump larger than 1/2 cm in diameter, pus-filled rash, rash
Symptoms that always occur with skin abscess: rash with bumps or blisters
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Warts, also called common warts or verrucae, are small, rough, rounded growths on the top layer of the skin. They may appear alone or in clusters. Common warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) and are contagious through direct contact. They may spread from one place on the body to another simply through touch.
A furuncle, also called a boil, is infection of a hair follicle. The infection forms under the skin at the root of the hair and may occur anywhere on the body.
The infection is caused by bacteria, most often Staphylococcus aureus or "staph." Irritation caused by clothes or anything else rubbing the skin can cause the skin to break down and allow bacteria to enter.
Staph bacteria are found everywhere. Frequent and thorough handwashing, and otherwise maintaining cleanliness, will help to prevent its spread.
Most susceptible are those with a weakened immune system; diabetes; and other skin infections.
Symptoms include a single bump under the skin that is swollen, painful, and red, and contains pus.
It is important to treat the boil, since infection can spread into the bloodstream and travel throughout the body.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination and sometimes fluid sample from the boil.
Treatment may involve incision and drainage of the infection, followed by creams to apply to the site of the boil and/or a course of antibiotic medicine.
Top Symptoms: pink or red facial bump, small facial lump, painful facial bump, marble sized facial lump, constant skin changes
Symptoms that always occur with boil (furuncle): pink or red facial bump
Symptoms that never occur with boil (furuncle): fever
Severe skin abscess
A skin abscess is an infection of the deeper skin that's typically due to bacteria seen on the skin. Recently, infections are more frequently caused by Staph. Aureus (puts the "staph" in "staph infections"). If the infection begins to spread, urgent treatment is required.
Top Symptoms: fatigue, fever, painful neck lump, marble-size neck lump, pink or red neck bump
Symptoms that always occur with severe skin abscess: pink or red neck bump, red bump
Urgency: Hospital emergency room
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Often the first sign of melanoma is a change in the size, shape, color, or feel of a mole. Most melanomas have a black or black-blue area. Melanoma may also appear as a new mole. It may be black, abnormal, or "ugly looking."
Top Symptoms: brown-colored skin changes, atypical features of a facial bump, black-colored skin changes, growing facial lump, large facial lump
Symptoms that always occur with melanoma: atypical features of a facial bump
Urgency: Primary care doctor
A dermatofibroma is a common skin growth that usually appears on the lower legs, but may appear anywhere on the body. These growths are benign (noncancerous). Dermatofibromas are most common in adults and are rarely found in children.
Lump On The Belly Button Treatments and Relief
A physician may recommend monitoring your symptoms since many lumps can resolve on their own. On the other hand, there are several causes of lumps on the belly button that require surgical management. Your physician will determine this based on the size of the lump, it's location and other factors such as your general health.
Your physician may discuss the following treatment options with you.
- Open surgery: During open surgery, your surgeon will make an incision near the hernia. If the tissue that is bulging out is healthy, it is pushed gently back into place; otherwise, this tissue is removed. Your surgeon will then sew the layers of the abdominal wall back together so that nothing can bulge through. Mesh may also be applied in order to take some strain off of the abdominal wall, .
- Laparoscopic surgery: During laparoscopic surgery, your surgeon will make a few incisions that are much smaller than those used in open surgery. Long, thin tools will then be inserted into the area around the hernia. One will be equipped with a camera (laparoscope). This will send pictures to a large screen that serve as a guide for the best places to apply the reparative mesh.
When it is an emergency
Seek medical attention immediately if you experience that intensifies, fever, vomiting an inability to pass gas or move the bowels. These may be signs of incarcerated or strangulated hernias that are medical emergencies.
FAQs About Lump On the Belly Button
What is an umbilical granuloma?
An umbilical granuloma is a small nodule formed from excess tissue around the cord. It can have persistent drainage and may look like an infection. However, it is different from an infection because there is no swelling, warmth, redness or fever associated with it.
How do I take care of my baby's umbilical cord?
Keep the cord clean and dry. You should allow the cord to be exposed to air as often as possible and do not bathe your baby before the cord has fallen off.
When should I worry about the infection of my baby's umbilical cord?
If your baby's umbilical cord is swollen, discolored, or tender you should be concerned and make an appointment with your pediatrician as soon as possible. Furthermore, if your child is vomiting or showing signs of any discomfort, you should go to the emergency room immediately.
Why can I push my hernia back into my stomach?
This phenomenon is called reducibility. If the protrusion can be pushed back into its opening, this signals that the lump can be treated by properly closing the hole. Reduction of the lump can help alleviate associated symptoms and delay the need for surgery.
Can I still exercise with a lump on my belly button?
Exercise is acceptable if you are cautious to avoid irritating the abdominal tissues or increasing intra-abdominal pressure. You should never begin an exercise regimen without your physician's approval. Low-intensity or low-impact exercises such as dancing, walking, or water aerobics may be good options. However, activities such as heavy weightlifting can you to strain and increase pressure in the abdomen.
Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Lump On The Belly Button
- How would you describe the location of your abdominal lump/bump the best?
- What color is the bump?
- Do you feel pain when you touch the bump?
- Do you have a rash?
- Disorders of the umbilicus in infants and children: A consensus statement of the Canadian Association of Paediatric Surgeons. Paediatr Child Health. 2001;6(6):312-3.
- Abdominal wall hernias. University of Michigan: Michigan Medicine.
- Hewitt B, Chojnacki K. Groin hernia repair by open surgery. JAMA. 2017;318(8):764.
- Hewitt B, Chojknacki K. Laparoscopic groin hernia repair. JAMA. 2017;318(13):1294.