Healthy Living

What is a Hiatal Hernia?

What is a Hiatal Hernia?

Key Takeaways

  • The hiatus is the opening in the diaphragm through which the esophagus goes and attaches to the stomach. 
  • There are two types of hernia – sliding and paraesophageal.

The hiatus is the opening in the diaphragm through which the esophagus goes and attaches to the stomach. Hiatal hernia is a condition that results in a part of the stomach pushing upwards through the opening into the chest. Small hiatal hernia may not affect you, and you may not realize unless the doctor diagnoses during a normal checkup. There are two types of hernia – sliding and paraesophageal. When the stomach and a section of the esophagus push up into the chest, it is referred to as sliding hiatal hernia. Paraesophageal hiatal hernia is more serious in that the stomach pushes upwards through the hiatus and comes to lie close to esophagus.

The actual cause of hiatal hernia is not known. Any reasons that may create more pressure in the abdominal cavity like pregnancy or obesity may result in this type of hernia. Hiatal hernia is more commonly found in people above 50-years-old.

Some of the possible causes of a hiatal hernia include:

  • Injury
  • Increased size of the hiatus
  • Pressure on surrounding muscles like coughing and too much strain during bowel movements  

In most of the cases, hiatal hernia may not cause any obvious symptoms. If the hernia is large, it may cause symptoms like heartburn, belching, difficulty in swallowing and also tiredness. Although the symptoms are similar to that of gastroesophageal reflux disease, the two diseases do not cause the other. If any of the above symptoms persists, it is better to diagnose the underlying problem. Hiatal hernia is diagnosed through an endoscopy or X-ray.

A specific treatment may not be required in many cases. If the stomach is strangled in paraesophageal hernia, surgery may be recommended. Some of the symptoms that are usually associated with hiatal hernia should be properly evaluated, while others should be treated.

Some of the medications often recommended for the treatment of hiatal hernia include:

  • Antacids – This will help to neutralize the stomach acids which may cause heartburn and belching.
  • H-2 receptor blockers – These drugs reduce the production of acid in the stomach and relieve some of symptoms.

Surgery is performed through a minimally invasive procedure and this is often combined with the procedure for gastroesophageal reflux disease. Few simple home remedies may also work wonder in relieving the symptoms of hiatal hernia.

  • Have smaller portions of meal throughout the day
  • Avoid foods that may trigger heartburn
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Reduce body weight
  • Quit smoking