Hiatal Hernia

May 3, 2022

What is a Hiatal Hernia?

Hiatal hernias are common in the United States. Your esophagus (food tube) passes through a small opening in your diaphragm before it attaches to your stomach. This small hole is called the hiatus. A hiatal hernia occurs when a portion of your stomach pushes up through the hiatus and enters your chest cavity.

A small hiatal hernia may never cause any symptoms or complications, whereas, a larger hiatal hernia could cause food and acid to flow back up the esophagus and a feeling of “heartburn”.

What Causes a Hiatal Hernia?

A hiatal hernia is often caused by weakened muscles and connective tissue within and around the hiatus.

The most common causes and risk factors for a hiatal hernia include:

  • Obesity
  • Age-related changes in your diaphragm
  • Injury to your hiatus from trauma or surgery
  • People over the age of 50
  • Born with an unusually large hiatus
  • Excessive coughing, vomiting, straining during a bowel movement, lifting heavy weights

What are the Symptoms of a Hiatal Hernia?

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Acid reflux and heartburn
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting blood
  • Blackened stools

Contact a GI Alliance gastroenterologist today if you are experiencing any of these symptoms persistently.

What are the Treatments for a Hiatal Hernia?

Most people with small hiatal hernias will not need any treatment.

If you are experiencing symptoms, the most common treatments for a hiatal hernia include:

  • Antacid medications
  • Surgery
  • Stop Smoking
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Reduce acid reflux with diet
  • Sleep with your head elevated
  • Avoid lying down after a meal