A hiatal hernia is a condition in which part of the stomach pokes through the diaphragm from the abdomen into the chest.
There are two types of hiatal hernias – sliding and para-esophageal. A sliding hernia occurs when part of the stomach bulges through the diaphragm and into the chest cavity when a person swallows food. This type of hernia is usually associated with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). A para-esophageal hernia occurs when part of the stomach bulges into the chest cavity, making it difficult for food to pass normally into the stomach. In addition, ulcers may form in the herniated part of the stomach.
Click on the statements/questions below to reveal the answers to the causes, symtoms and signs of this particular disease.
While the exact cause is unknown, it is more common after middle age, in overweight people and in smokers.
Many people don’t experience any symptoms. Others experience the backward flow of stomach acid into the esophagus. This is called acid reflux. A more serious form of acid reflux is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Symptoms of acid reflux include:
- burning pain in the lower chest (heartburn), especially after eating a large meal, certain foods or when lying down,
- bitter or sour taste in the back of your throat,
- bloating and belching,
- discomfort or pain in stomach or esophagus and/or
Since many hiatal hernias don’t cause symptoms, they may be discovered during exams for other health concerns. If you do have symptoms, your physician will perform an exam and take a medical history. He or she may also conduct a barium X-ray study (of just the esophagus or the entire gastrointestinal tract) or an upper GI endoscopy.
In many cases, treatment includes weight reduction, change in diet, antacids for heartburn symptoms and medicine to reduce the acidity in your esophagus. Sleeping with your head raised about 4 inches helps (try putting the head of your bed on blocks); avoid lying down for at least one hour after meals. Quit smoking and avoid foods that cause heartburn (these may include tomato-based items, foods that are high in fat, spicy foods, orange juice, coffee and alcohol). It may also be helpful to eat 4-6 small meals a day instead of just 2 or 3 large ones.