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Hiatal Hernia: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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Hiatal Hernia: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

When an internal body part pushes itself into an area where it does not belong, this medical condition is known as a hernia. Furthermore, a hiatal hernia is a medical condition in which a small tissue of stomach sticks out through the opening in the diaphragm into the chest cavity. The hiatus is a diaphragm opening which separates the abdomen from the chest cavity.There are two different types of Hiatal hernias: a para esophageal hernia and a sliding hernia. In most cases, a hiatal hernia does not cause any pain or other problems. Furthermore, you may never know that you have this medical ailment unless your doctor discovers during a check-up. But if you have the large hiatal hernia, it can allow stomach acid and food to back up into your esophagus which leads to heartburn. In this post, I will take you through every aspect of a hiatal hernia and answer common questions of patients.

What are the causes of Hiatal Hernia?

In most of the cases, the real cause if a hiatal hernia is not known. There can be the plethora of causes if this ailment. It is possible that a person may be born with a larger Hiatal opening. In addition, increased pressure in the abdomen such as from obesity, pregnancy, coughing, or straining during bowel movements may also cause this ailment.

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What are the symptoms of a hiatal hernia?

Many people having hiatal hernia never have any symptoms. Some people have same symptoms as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) which occurs when different digestive juices move from the stomach back into the esophagus. Symptoms of GERD include:

  • Heartburn
  • Bitter or sour taste in the back of the throat
  • Bloating and belching
  • Discomfort or pain in the stomach or esophagus

Although there appears to be a link between GERD and hiatal hernia, one condition doesn’t seem to cause the other. There are many people who have GERD without having a hiatal hernia and others a hiatal hernia without GERD.

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Another symptom of a hiatal hernia is chest pain and in some cases stomach pain. Since chest pain can also be a symptom of many other diseases like heart attack and stomach gas, it is important to contact your doctor if you experience chest pain.

Who Is at High Risk for Hiatal Hernia?

This medical ailment occurs more often in women as well as people older than 50 and people who are overweight.

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How is a Hiatal Hernia Diagnosed?

A hiatal hernia can be diagnosed with a specialized X-ray (using a barium swallow) that allows a doctor to see the esophagus or with endoscopy.

What is the Treatment of Hiatal Hernia?

Most people don’t experience any symptoms of a hiatal hernia so no treatment is necessary in the case of a small hiatal hernia. However, it can sometimes cause your stomach to be strangled. If you are  experiencing this issue, your doctor may recommend you a small surgery to cure it completely. Other symptoms include stomach and chest pain–which should be evaluated properly.

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When is Hiatal Hernia Surgery Necessary?

There are various effective treatments for a hiatal hernia available that can cure it without any surgery. In case the hiatal hernia becomes severe and is in danger of becoming strangulated or constricted (so that the blood supply is cut off), then a small surgery may be required to reduce the size of a hernia. This means putting it back where it belongs.

How Can Hiatal Hernia be Prevented?

Lifestyle and dietary adjustments help to control a hiatal hernia. Remember  the following points for effective prevention from this ailment:

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  • Avoid reclining after meals.
  • Avoid acidic foods, spicy foods, alcohol, and tobacco.
  • Eating small frequent meals so as to keep the pressure on esophageal sphincter.
  • Eat a high-fiber diet.
  • Elevating the head of the bed a few inches can improve both the quantity & quality of sleep.

Wrapping it All Up

A hiatal hernia is not a perilous ailment, but in absence of proper care and medication, it can become severe. A healthy lifestyle and proper exercise can help you stay away from this ailment.

Featured photo credit: Stomach Pain via digestionresource.com

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