What is Hiatal Hernia?

What is Hiatal Hernia or Hiatus Hernia?

Hiatal hernia or hiatus hernia is a condition in which a part of the stomach pushes through the opening in the diaphragm up into the chest. The diaphragm is the muscle which separates the chest from the abdomen and it helps in breathing. In majority of the patients, a small hiatal hernia doesn't cause any symptoms; however, a large hiatal hernia causes regurgitation of food and acid back into the esophagus resulting in heartburn. Usually, conservative measures like self-care or medications help in relieving the symptoms. Surgery may be required if the hernia is very large and symptoms don't alleviate with conservative treatment.

Hiatal Hernia or Hiatus Hernia

Causes and Risk Factors of Hiatal Hernia or Hiatus Hernia

  • The cause of Hiatal Hernia or Hiatus Hernia is unknown.
  • Weakening of the surrounding tissue may cause hiatal hernia.
  • Ageing, obesity and smoking are other risk factors for hiatal hernia.
  • It can be congenital also and is usually present with gastro esophageal reflux in infants.
  • Injury to the diaphragm or the surrounding tissue causes it to weaken and results in hiatal hernia.
  • Hiatal hernias are quite common, particularly in individuals aged over 50 years.
  • This condition usually causes reflux or backflow of gastric acid from the stomach into the esophagus causing heart burn and other symptoms.
  • Hiatal Hernia or Hiatus Hernia may also occur as a result of continuous, prolonged and intense pressure on the surrounding muscles, such as coughing, vomiting, or straining when lifting heavy objects or when passing bowels.

Signs and Symptoms of Hiatal Hernia or Hiatus Hernia

  • A hiatal hernia alone rarely causes symptoms. Symptoms such as pain and discomfort occur due to the reflux or backflow of gastric acid, bile or air into the esophagus.
  • Pain in the chest.
  • Heartburn which gets exacerbated when the patient bends over or lies down.
  • Belching.
  • Difficulty in swallowing.
  • Fatigue.

Tests to Diagnose Hiatal Hernia or Hiatus Hernia

  • Barium swallow x-ray.
  • Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD).

Treatment for Hiatal Hernia or Hiatus Hernia

  • Treatment for hiatal hernia is done to relieve symptoms and to prevent further complications.
  • Pain caused by hiatal hernia is relieved by reducing the back flow of stomach contents into the esophagus. (gastroesophageal reflux)
  • Medications are given which help in neutralizing the stomach acid and decreasing the production of the acid.
  • Medications may be given for strengthening the lower esophageal sphincter.
  • Other conservative methods to cure hiatal Hernia are: Avoiding heavy or large meals, avoiding lying down or bending immediately after a meal and cutting down or quitting smoking and losing the excess weight.
  • If symptoms of Hiatal Hernia or Hiatus Hernia are not relieved by the above measures or if the patient suffers from complications then surgery may be required to repair the hernia.
  • Prevention of Hiatal Hernia or Hiatus Hernia can be done by avoiding the risk factors such as smoking and obesity.

Complications Of Hiatal Hernia or Hiatus Hernia Include:

  • Pulmonary (lung) aspiration.
  • Gradual bleeding and iron deficiency anemia if the hernia is large.
  • Strangulation of the hernia.

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Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: November 2, 2015

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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