A lump in the abdomen is a small area of swelling or bulge of tissue in the belly.
Most often, a lump in the abdomen is caused by a hernia. An abdominal hernia occurs when there is a weak spot in the abdominal wall. This allows the internal organs to bulge through the muscles of the abdomen. A hernia may appear after you strain, or lift something heavy, or after a long period of coughing.
There are several types of hernias, based on where they occur:
Other causes of a lump in the abdominal wall include:
Call your health care provider if you have a lump in your abdomen, especially if it becomes larger, changes color, or is painful.
If you have a hernia, call your provider if:
The blood supply may be cut off to the organs that stick out through the hernia. This is called a strangulated hernia. This condition is very rare, but it is a medical emergency when it occurs.
The provider will examine you and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, such as:
During the physical exam, you may be asked to cough or strain.
Surgery may be needed to correct hernias that do not go away or cause symptoms. The surgery may be done through a large surgical cut, or through a smaller cut into which the surgeon inserts a camera and other instruments.
Reviewed By: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, general surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.