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Home > Symptom > Hiatal Hernia

Hiatal Hernia

Hiatal Hernia

Overview of Hiatal Hernia

A hiatal hernia is when your stomach begins to bulge out of the opening in your diaphragm that separates your stomach from the other organs. Hiatal hernias are common for people of any age or gender and often have no symptoms. But when they do, the symptoms can be similar to those of GERD.

What is Hiatal Hernia?

A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of your stomach pushes through a large muscle in your abdomen and chest (diaphragm).

A small hiatal hernia usually doesn't cause any serious problems. You may never know you have one if it's not noticed during a checkup for another condition.

But if you have a large hiatal hernia, your acid might be able to back up into your esophagus and cause heartburn. You can usually manage these symptoms with self-care measures or medications. If you have an exceptionally large hiatal hernia, surgery might be required.

One of the most common digestive disorders, Hiatal Hernia is not a disease but rather an anatomical condition. It's caused by a protrusion of the stomach through the diaphragm muscle that sustains it. This article breaks down what the condition entails and its symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of Hiatal Hernia

The most common symptom of a hiatal hernia is heartburn. Other symptoms may include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort: When you have a hiatal hernia, it's possible to experience chest pain or discomfort. This is because the hernia can cause the stomach's contents to press up against the esophagus, which can lead to heartburn and other symptoms. If you're experiencing chest pain, it's important to see your doctor to rule out other potential causes.
  • Pain with swallowing: Pain with swallowing can be a symptom of hiatal hernia. This occurs when the stomach bulges through the opening in the diaphragm that separates the chest and abdominal cavities. This can cause pain when you swallow, as well as other symptoms such as heartburn, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. It's crucial to visit your doctor if you encounter any of these symptoms in order to rule out any other potential reasons.
  • Shortness of breath: If you have a hiatal hernia, you may experience shortness of breath. This is because the hernia can cause the stomach to push up against the diaphragm, making it difficult to breathe. Shortness of breath may also be caused by GERD, which is a common complication of hiatal hernias. If you experience shortness of breath, it is important to see your doctor so they can determine the cause and provide treatment.
  • Vomiting blood or passing black stools: If you are vomiting blood or passing black stools, it is important to seek medical attention immediately as this could be a sign of a more serious condition.
  • Difficulty or pain with belching: Difficulty or pain with belching can be a symptom of hiatal hernia. This is because the hernia can cause the stomach contents to push up against the diaphragm, which can cause belching. If you have difficulty or pain with belching, it is important to see your doctor to rule out hiatal hernia.

It's crucial to see your doctor as soon as possible if you experience any of these symptoms. While many people with hiatal hernias don't have any symptoms, the condition can still be serious and lead to complications such as GERD.

What to do if you believe you have a Hiatal Hernia

If you believe you have a Hiatal Hernia, it is important to see your doctor right away. This condition can be serious and may require treatment.

Your doctor will likely ask you about your symptoms and medical history. They may also want to do a physical examination. In some cases, they may order tests such as an upper GI series or endoscopy to confirm the diagnosis.

If you are diagnosed with a hiatal hernia, treatment options will depend on the size of the hernia and the severity of your symptoms. Smaller hernias may not require any treatment at all. Larger hernias or those that cause severe symptoms may need surgery to repair the hole in the diaphragm.

Prevention of a Hiatal Hernia

There are a few things you can do to prevent a hiatal hernia: 

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is a common cause of hiatal hernias. 
  • Avoid foods that trigger heartburn. Common triggers include fatty foods, spicy foods, citrus fruits, tomatoes, chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol. 
  • Eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day instead of large meals. 
  • Don’t lie down immediately after eating. Wait at least three hours before going to bed. 
  • Raise the head of your bed by four to six inches to reduce nighttime heartburn.

Conclusion

If you think you may be suffering from a hiatal hernia, it's important to seek medical attention so that you can get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Hiatal hernias are relatively common and usually don't require surgery, but in some cases, they can be quite serious. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, don't hesitate to contact your doctor.

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