A hiatal hernia is a medical condition that occurs when the upper part of your stomach bulges through your diaphragm into your chest cavity. This protrusion can cause discomfort and pain, as well as digestive problems. In this article, we’ll explore different ways to fix a hiatal hernia.
What Causes a Hiatal Hernia?
The exact cause of a hiatal hernia is not known, but there are factors that can increase the risk of developing one.
Factors that Can Increase Your Risk for a Hiatal Hernia
- Being over the age of 50
- Being overweight or obese
- Chronic coughing
- Heavy lifting
- Weakened diaphragm muscles due to injury or damage
- You’re born with a large hiatus
Diagnosis of Hiatal Hernia
If you have persistent symptoms of a hiatal hernia, such as heartburn or acid reflux, you should see a doctor. A diagnosis is usually made using one or more of the following tests:
X-Ray and CT Scan
The doctor may order an X-ray or CT scan of your chest and abdomen to look for a hiatal hernia. If a hiatal hernia is present, it will show up on the image.
An endoscopy involves inserting a flexible tube with a camera down your throat and into your esophagus and stomach. This allows the doctor to see your esophagus and stomach lining and look for signs of inflammation, irritation, or other abnormalities.
Manometry is a test that measures the strength and function of the muscles in your esophagus. The doctor will insert a thin, flexible tube through your nose and down your throat to measure the pressure in your esophagus and lower esophageal sphincter (LES).
Treatments for Hiatal Hernia
If you have been diagnosed with a hiatal hernia, the treatment options depend on the severity of your symptoms.
In many cases, lifestyle changes can help alleviate the symptoms of a hiatal hernia. These changes include:
- Eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day instead of large meals
- Avoiding foods that can trigger symptoms, such as spicy or fatty foods, chocolate, alcohol, and caffeine
- Quitting smoking
- Losing weight if you’re overweight or obese
- Sleeping with your head and chest elevated to reduce acid reflux while you sleep
- Avoiding lying down or bending over after eating
Over-the-counter medications, such as antacids, H2 blockers, or proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), can help reduce acid reflux and other symptoms of a hiatal hernia. However, it’s important to talk to your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications, especially if you’re taking other medications or have underlying health conditions.
If lifestyle changes and medications don’t relieve your symptoms, your doctor may recommend surgery. The most common type of surgery for a hiatal hernia is called a Nissen fundoplication. This surgery involves wrapping the upper part of the stomach around the LES to reinforce the barrier between the esophagus and stomach and prevent reflux.
Complications of Hiatal Hernia
While most cases of hiatal hernia are not serious and can be managed with lifestyle changes and medications, there are some potential complications that can arise. These complications include:
In some cases, a hiatal hernia can become trapped and lose its blood supply, causing tissue death. This is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment.
Chronic acid reflux from a hiatal hernia can cause changes in the lining of the esophagus, increasing the risk of developing esophageal cancer.
Prevention of Hiatal Hernia
While there’s no surefire way to prevent a hiatal hernia, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid heavy lifting and straining
- Avoid tight-fitting clothing
- Don’t smoke
- Follow a healthy diet with small, frequent meals
- Sleep with your head and chest elevated
A hiatal hernia is a common medical condition that can cause discomfort and digestive problems. If you have persistent symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Lifestyle changes, medications, and surgery are all viable options for managing hiatal hernia symptoms.
- What Causes a Hiatal Hernia?
- Diagnosis of Hiatal Hernia
- Treatments for Hiatal Hernia
- Complications of Hiatal Hernia
- Prevention of Hiatal Hernia