Learning Hiatal Hernia Symptoms, Surgery and Treatments

By Alley Benton
Updated February 1, 2017
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Learning Hiatal Hernia Symptoms, Surgery and TreatmentsHiatal hernias happen when some of the stomach pushes into the chest area through a hiatus (opening) in the diaphragm. This type of hernia is reasonably common and, in some people, go by unnoticed. This is why it is important to be aware of hiatal hernia symptoms, surgery, treatment and more.

Hiatal Hernia Symptoms:

Heartburn is incredibly common in people with a hiatus hernia. They often develop GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease). This means stomach acid is able to enter the esophagus, particularly if the hernia stops the valve from properly blocking it off. This can lead to severe irritation, as it becomes suddenly exposed to stomach acid. Symptoms include chest pain, heartburn, dysphagia, and a sour taste in the mouth. If these symptoms are frequent, you should seek medical attention.

Hiatal Hernia Causes:

Physicians often cannot pinpoint the cause of a hernia. However, they believe it is usually caused by pressure on the stomach and/or weakening of the diaphragm due to age. It can also happen in newborns, however, if their diaphragm hasn't developed properly in utero. As such, it can affect anybody, although it is most commonly found in:

  • People over 50. It is believed that a hiatal hernia is found in around a third of those over the age of 50.
  • Those who are overweight
  • Pregnant women

Types of Hiatal Hernia:

There are two forms of hiatal hernia:

1.) The sliding hernia, whereby it moves in and out, and up and down, the chest area. Around 80% of all diagnosed cases are of this type.

2.) Para-esophageal hernia, or rolling hernia, which means part of the stomach actually pushes up through the hiatus next to the esophagus. This happens in between 5% and 15% of all hernias.

Hiatal Hernia Treatment:

Because sliding hernias are the most common, there is a lot of knowledge available on them. Usually, an endoscopy or x-ray can diagnose the condition, after which treatment can commence. Usually, the main goal of the treatment will be to lessen the GERD symptoms, including heartburn. Hence, people will be encouraged to make significant lifestyle changes, supported my medication. While surgery is available, this is usually offered as a last resort only, if no other type of treatment has been effective.

Some of the most important lifestyle changes include:

  • Eating frequent, small meals instead of consuming three main meals every day
  • Not lying down for three hours after you finish drinking or eating
  • Keeping a food diary and removing anything that worsens symptoms from your diet

Usually, no direct treatment of the hernia itself is required, particularly if it is asymptomatic. In some rare cases, however, surgery will be required, which is most common in those who have a para-esophageal hernia. This is because this type of hernia carries the risk of more serious complications. The reason why even a sliding hernia requires treatment, however, is because it can lead to complications if left alone, which includes ulcers, as well as changes to the esophagus, potentially leading to esophageal cancer.

* Disclaimer:
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.