Hiatal Hernia

What is a hiatal hernia?

A hiatal hernia is a condition in which a part of the stomach bulges upward through the diaphragm and into the chest cavity. There are two types of hiatal hernias: sliding and paraesophageal. Sliding hiatal hernias are more common and occur when the junction between the esophagus and stomach slides up into the chest. Paraesophageal hernias occur when a portion of the stomach bulges through the diaphragm and stays there.


Who's at risk for a hiatal hernia?

Anyone can develop a hiatal hernia, but certain populations may be at higher risk, including:

  • People who are over 50 years of age
  • Women, who are more likely than men to develop a hiatal hernia
  • People who are overweight or obese
  • People who smoke
  • People with a family history of hiatal hernia


What causes a hiatal hernia?

The exact cause of hiatal hernias is not known, but risk factors may include weakened muscles in the diaphragm, increased pressure in the abdomen, or injury to the area.


How does a hiatal hernia start?

A hiatal hernia may begin with symptoms such as heartburn, chest pain, or difficulty swallowing. Other symptoms may include:

  • Regurgitation of food or liquids
  • Belching or hiccups
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Feeling of fullness or bloating
  • What are the symptoms of a hiatal hernia?


The symptoms of a hiatal hernia may vary, but may include:

  • Heartburn or chest pain, which may worsen when lying down or after eating
  • Difficulty swallowing or a feeling of food getting stuck in the chest or throat
  • Regurgitation of food or liquids
  • Belching or hiccups
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Feeling of fullness or bloating


How is a hiatal hernia diagnosed?

Diagnosing a hiatal hernia typically involves a comprehensive evaluation of a person's symptoms, medical history, and risk factors, as well as diagnostic tests such as an upper endoscopy, barium swallow, or esophageal manometry.


How can a hiatal hernia be treated?

Treatment for a hiatal hernia may involve lifestyle modifications, such as avoiding certain foods or losing weight, as well as medications to manage symptoms such as heartburn. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair the hernia and prevent complications.


What complications may occur with a hiatal hernia?

Complications of a hiatal hernia may include:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which may occur when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus
  • Strangulation or obstruction of the hernia, which may require emergency surgery
  • Increased risk of developing esophageal cancer over time


How can I prevent a hiatal hernia?

While it may not be possible to completely prevent a hiatal hernia, taking steps to reduce risk factors such as maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding smoking may help.


Long-term management of a hiatal hernia

People with a hiatal hernia may require ongoing medical care and monitoring to manage their condition and prevent future complications. This may involve regular use of medications to manage symptoms, as well as lifestyle modifications to reduce the risk of complications.


What is recent research saying about a hiatal hernia?

Recent research in hiatal hernias has focused on improving diagnosis and management of the condition, as well as identifying new treatment options and risk factors. Some of the promising areas of research include:

  • Development of new surgical techniques for repairing hiatal hernias and reducing the risk of complications
  • Investigation of the relationship between hiatal hernias and GERD, and the impact of GERD on long-term outcomes
  • Exploration of the use of non-surgical interventions, such as endoscopic procedures, to manage hiatal hernias and related complications


Where can I go for more information on a hiatal hernia?

If you or someone you know has a hiatal hernia or wants more information on the condition, it is important to seek help from a healthcare provider who specializes in the treatment of digestive disorders. The following organizations also provide information and resources on hiatal hernias: