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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:
- 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
- Stop Smoking
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Reduce acid reflux with diet
- Sleep with your head elevated
- Avoid lying down after a meal