Hiatal Hernia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

When an internal relocates to a position where it doesn’t belong, the condition is known as a hernia. In the case of a hiatal hernia, a part of the stomach known as the hiatus pushes up through the diaphragm into the chest. The symptoms of a hiatal hernia are often too subtle to notice, but when they do present themselves they include heartburn, bloating after eating, and burping. Treatments for hiatal hernias depend on the severity of the condition and are usually limited to dietary modifications and heartburn medications.

According to the Mayo Clinic, hiatal hernias are most prevalent among people over 50 years of age, tobacco users, the obese. Women face a higher affliction rates than men and having had a previous abdominal surgery also ups the odds of a hiatal hernia. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center reports that a hiatal hernia can be sliding (the hiatus keeps moving between the abdomen and the chest), fixed (the hiatus stays in the chest), or complicated (as much as the entire stomach rises into the chest).

Hiatal hernias vary in severity and the symptoms of hiatal hernias experience similar variance. A minor hiatal hernia will often present no noticeable symptoms. According to the Penn State University Medical Center, the most common symptoms of hiatal hernias are heartburn, frequent burping, and abdominal bloating.

In severe cases, complicated hiatal hernias will produce more alarming signs. In addition to acid reflux issues, symptoms of a major hiatal hernia may include chest pain, trouble swallowing, and severe bloating. These complicated hiatal hernias are far less common than smaller ones.

Treatments for hiatal hernias are typically noninvasive and often limited to simple dietary and behavioral changes. For minor hiatal hernias, treatments include avoiding foods which are spicy, acidic, or caffeinated, per the Penn State Medical Center. Antacids like Pepto Bismol and Tums or medications that reduce acid production like Prilosec may also be used to treat hiatal hernias and their acid reflux symptoms. The Mayo Clinic also recommends not drinking alcohol, avoiding foods that are highly fatty or greasy, and spreading eating out into several small sittings rather than three large meals to treat hiatal hernias.

In the worst cases, treatments for hiatal hernias can involve surgery. When symptoms are severe or the hernia is twisted or otherwise complicated, surgery becomes the final option treatment for a hiatal hernia. This is generally a minor surgery that involves small incisions and a laparoscope with full recovery coming within a matter of weeks, according to WebMD.

A hiatal hernia is basically a dislocated stomach which can vary in degree from a short journey north to a full relocation from the abdomen into the chest. Most hiatal hernias are minor and present no symptoms, but some can cause digestive issues like acid reflux and abdominal bloating. It would best to talk to the best doctor that you trust if you have any questions about your digestive health or the symptoms and treatments for hiatal hernias.


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