A hernia is a general medical term for describing a hole or gap in your abdominal wall, though there are many specific types of hernia that related to certain areas of the body or types of tissue.
An epigastric hernia is a type of hernia that occurs in the region between your sternum (breastbone) and your belly button. It’s often hard to detect as symptoms are usually mild, but it can become worse through strain on the abdomen.
While an epigastric hernia may go undetected for a long time, the most likely way of noticing one is because of bump on your stomach. The bump is caused when fatty tissue pokes through the hole in the muscle wall. This bump can grow larger over time if left untreated. The bump may be noticeable all the time, or it may only appear when you sneeze or cough.
The hernia may also come with pain or discomfort in the region between your sternum and belly button, especially when coughing or straining your abdomen.
As with any hernia, an epigastric hernia is caused by a weakness in the abdominal wall. The cause of this weakness can be hard to identify, and may be genetic or down to other factors, but there are more obvious factors that can contribute to a hernia getting worse, such as lifting heavy objects, coughing, and certain sports.
If left untreated, the weakness in the muscle wall can become worse, allowing more tissue to bulge out, including sections of intestine. In extreme cases this can lead to blockages in the bowel, causing abdominal pain, vomiting, or fevers. You should seek medical attention immediately if you experience these symptoms.
An epigastric hernia needs treatment or it will worsen over time. In the early stages, this might be as simple as pushing the protruding tissue back in, but in more advanced stages, this type of hernia can only be repaired through surgery.
This involves returning any protruding tissue back into the abdomen and strengthening the muscle wall with stiches or sometimes with a nylon mesh.