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A hernia is when part of an organ goes through an opening in the muscle wall around it.
In a hiatal hernia, part of your stomach pushes up into an opening (the hiatus) in your diaphragm. The diaphragm is the muscle between your stomach and your chest.
In most cases, your food pipe (esophagus) goes through the hiatus and joins your stomach. But with a hiatal hernia, the top part of your stomach moves up through that opening into your chest.
The top part of your stomach gets pinched. Stomach acid can back up (reflux) through the opening. This may cause heartburn and other symptoms.
There are 2 types of hiatal hernias: sliding and paraesophageal.
Experts don’t know what causes hiatal hernias. Some causes may include:
You may be at greater risk for a hiatal hernia if you:
In many cases a hiatal hernia has no symptoms.
Some people do have symptoms. These may include:
Paraesophageal hernias may have more severe symptoms. These can include:
In some cases a paraesophageal hernia can lead to a medical emergency. The stomach or abdominal organs may turn or twist, causing very bad pain. There is a danger that the stomach’s blood supply may be cut off (strangulation). This is an emergency. You will likely need surgery right away.
The symptoms of a hiatal hernia may look like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider to be sure.
Your healthcare provider will give you a physical exam. He or she will look at your past health.
You may also have tests including:
Your healthcare provider will create a care plan for you based on:
In most cases you won’t need treatment. But you may need medical care if your hernia:
Your healthcare provider may suggest medicines to:
In severe cases surgery may also be needed to:
In most cases a hiatal hernia won’t lead to other health problems.
In some cases it can cause other problems such as:
Follow your healthcare provider’s advice for treating and managing your hiatal hernia. You may need to make some lifestyle changes, such as:
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