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What is a Hiatal Hernia?


A hernia develops when an organ pushes through a weakness or hole in the muscular wall, resulting in a bulge or lump in that area. Believe it or not, this condition is classified into five categories, with hiatal hernias being the most unique of all the other types. This is because many individuals who have a hiatal hernia may not notice the protruding bulge right away, as it develops in the high area of the stomach, near the chest. This is caused when the muscles tissue that surrounds your diaphragm becomes weak, causing your upper stomach to bulge up. As a result symptoms include:

  • Heart burn
  • Acid Reflux
  • Excessive gas (burping)
  • Hard time swallowing
  • Chest and stomach pain and discomfort
  • Naseua, vomiting , and dry heaving

These above symptom may worsen after meals, or when lying down and sleeping. While both men and women are at risk of this condition, people who are obese and over the age of 50 years seem to be more susceptible. The condition lies within individuals born with a weak spot in their abdominal muscles; however, it can also result in constant pressure surrounding these muscles due to chronic coughing, vomiting, constipation, or lifting heavy objects.

If you think you may have a hiatal hernia, it is recommended to book an appointment to see your doctor, as soon as possible. A doctor will be able to diagnose this type of hernia, through a physical examination, X-rays, or an ultrasound.  Unlike other hernia types, a hiatal hernia might not necessarily require surgery. As this condition mirrors acid reflux, changes to diet and medication are the main areas of focus to improve your symptoms, and heal the hernia. Individuals may be advised to eat smaller, more frequent meals. A doctor also may recommend refraining from foods that trigger acid reflux such as: spicy foods, onions, tomatoes, oranges and other citrus fruit, and foods that are heavily fried. Alternatively, a family physician may also suggest elevating your bed when sleeping, which will help prevent the acid reflux caused by hiatal hernias. Depending on the severity of the issue, your doctor may suggest over-the-counter products, or prescribe you a medication dedicated to assisting with acid reflux.

Surgery tends to be a final solution, if all other methods have failed. In rare cases, surgery might be suggested to repair a hiatal hernia. However, this is generally reserved for emergency cases that have prolonged without treatment, or for patience that can’t seem to get better with medication.