Hiatal Hernia | What are the Causes & Signs to Lookout For?

What is a Hiatal Hernia?

A hiatal hernia happens when the upper part of your stomach swells out or protrude outwards through the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a pretty big muscle that is responsible for separating your abdominal region from the chest region.

We all know that we have a food pipe, known as the oesophagus, that passes through our chest region and before it joins with the stomach it has to pass through a small hole, also known as hiatus, which is located on the diaphragm. In the case of a hiatal hernia, the upper part of the stomach protrudes out from the hiatus into your chest region.

If a hiatal hernia is pretty small, you might even know that you have one. Usually, people go for their routine checkups or with some other problem to the doctor when a hiatal hernia is discovered. However, if a hiatal hernia is slightly bigger, the food coming in from the oesophagus, along with the acid from the stomach, can back up into the oesophagus resulting in, what is called in medical terms, a heartburn.

Please note that if a hiatal hernia is detected in your routine check-up and you weren’t facing any related symptoms then you can opt for hiatal hernia repair without surgery. Usually, pretty large hiatal hernias, where there are chances of the stomach getting strangulated, require surgery.

Now, if you are here in this post, chances are that you might be sensing a hiatal hernia. A bulk of the small hiatal hernias don’t show any kind of symptoms. However, larger hiatal hernias can do cause a range of symptoms, mentioned in the below-provided list, that you must worry about. If you are witnessing the following signs and symptoms, chances are that you have developed a case of a significantly large hiatal hernia.

  • As mentioned above, food coming in from the oesophagus and the acid from the stomach can get backed up in the oesophagus itself, resulting in heartburn.
  • You might feel that whatever food and liquids that you are putting in are getting ejected by the stomach back to your mouth.
  • Acid reflux; meaning stomach acid can back up in the oesophagus.
  • As an upshot of the above mentioned three signs or symptoms, you would face the issue of difficulty in swallowing.
  • Pain in the abdominal region or the chest region, usually where the diaphragm is located.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding might happen in severe cases. As a consequence of this, you might pass black stools or pass a vomit with blood.

It is highly recommended, not to try treating yourself on your own, especially if you are obese and you witness that these signs and symptoms are persisting. You must consult your doctor immediately to avoid further complications.

Are there any different types of a hiatal hernia?

Yes! There are two primary types of hiatal hernias i.e. sliding and paraesophageal. Sliding hiatal hernia is the most common one. In this, the part of the oesophagus that connects with the stomach protrudes out from the hiatus along with the upper part of the stomach.  

However, in the case of paraesophageal hiatal hernia, both the oesophagus and the stomach stay where there are. However, a portion of the upper region of the stomach protrudes out through the hiatus and comes in the immediate vicinity of the oesophagus. In this type of a hiatal hernia, the chances of the protruded part of the stomach getting strangulated are more. In this case, the blood supply to that part will shut down. In this scenario doctors, usually, go for surgery to put the protruded part of the stomach in its original location.

What are the causes of a Hiatal Hernia?

There are no clearly defined causes of a hiatal hernia. However, certain causes are outlined by doctors which may contribute to the muscle tissue going weak.

  • With increasing age changes happen in the diaphragm. That’s why people above the age of 50 are more susceptible to a hiatal hernia.
  • If you met an accident and developed an injury in that specific area you might become prone to a hiatal hernia.
  • Sometimes, due to genetic reasons itself, people are born with large hiatus and as such, they are prone to a hiatal hernia anytime in their life.
  • When the muscles around the area have to face intense pressure on a persistent basis like when you a cough, vomit or strain your bowels during constipation, the muscles can go weak. Moreover, even while lifting weights higher than your body’s capacity you are, actually, increasing your chances of developing a hiatal hernia.
  • Also, obesity can be one major reason behind a hiatal hernia. If you have lots of fat around the belly region you are susceptible to a hiatal hernia. So, it is time to put on your jogging shoes and shed the extra weight that you are carrying around.

How is a hiatal hernia diagnosed?

Hiatal hernias can be diagnosed with the aid and assistance of an abdominal ultrasound or special X-rays. Even endoscopy can be utilized to diagnose a hiatal hernia.

Conclusion – Final Words

Hiatal hernias are, usually, not dangerous. However, this doesn’t mean that if a hiatal hernia is detected you can ignore it. To avoid further complications, you must work towards getting the same fixed and preventing the same scenario from happening again. Please never ignore the signs and symptoms of a hiatal hernia especially if they persist in their occurrence. Consult a doctor immediately and get yourself checked for a hiatal hernia. Any sort of delay may land you in some serious complications.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.