Explanation of Hiatal Hernia
A hiatal hernia occurs when part of your stomach protrudes through an opening in your diaphragm called the esophageal hiatus. Most hiatal hernias are not serious, but severe cases may require surgery.
Hiatal hernias occur in about 15 percent of the population, but become more common after age 50.
Large hiatal hernias can cause acid from the stomach to back up into the esophagus, a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. Symptoms include heartburn, chest pain, trouble swallowing, nausea, dry cough, regurgitation, belching and bad breath.
A larger opening than normal in the esophageal hiatus makes it easier for part of the stomach to push through and protrude into the chest.
Medical treatment for hiatal hernias is generally the same as for GERD: antacids or other medications, or surgery, if necessary. Often you can improve your symptoms by avoiding alcohol, tobacco and foods that trigger heartburn; eating smaller meals; and, if necessary, losing weight.
Para-esophageal hiatal hernias, which are uncommon, can inhibit the flow of food into the stomach, potentially causing obstructions and ulcers. In rare cases, hiatal hernias become strangulated, causing severe chest pain and obstructing your esophagus.