Hiatal hernias are fairly commonplace in western society, especially for those over the age of 50. But what is a hiatal hernia? A hiatal hernia occurs when the top portion of your stomach pushes against your abdomen and chest through an opening in your diaphragm, called the hiatus. While hiatal hernias on their own may not cause a big commotion in your body, when they occur in conjunction with gastroesophageal reflux disease—or GERD—the symptoms can be worse and lead to further complications.

Below, we take a look at symptoms, causes, treatments, and how your doctor will work to diagnose hiatal hernias.

Types of Hiatal Hernias

There are two types of hiatal hernias: paraesophageal and sliding. A paraesophageal hernia occurs when the esophagus and stomach don’t necessarily move, but a small section of the stomach comes through the hiatus and adjacent to the esophagus. This type of hernia is less common, but can oftentimes pose a worse threat to your health. With a sliding hernia, the stomach and part of your esophagus may literally “slide” into the chest through the hiatus.  

Symptoms of Hiatal Hernias

While many small hiatal hernias don’t show signs or symptoms of their presence, others can cause the following symptoms:

·       Heartburn

·       Acid reflux

·       Difficulty swallowing

·       Chest or abdominal pain

·       Shortness of breath

Hiatal hernias are very common in patients suffering from GERD and are often discovered when a patient complains of symptoms more closely related to GERD. 

Diagnosing Hiatal Hernias

If you are experiencing persistent or severe symptoms, reach out to your physician to make an appointment sooner rather than later. A hiatal hernia is often found during a procedure to diagnose or treat heartburn or chest pain. These tests include x-rays of your upper digestive system, an upper endoscopy, or an esophageal manometry, in which the doctor measures your muscle contractions asyou swallow.

Hiatal Hernia Treatment

Most times with hiatal hernia, you won’t need treatment and can alleviate symptoms by making simple lifestyle changes. Your doctor may also recommend over-the-counter remedies for heartburn and acid reflux.

However, if you are experiencing unwavering symptoms and complications of GERD with your hiatal hernias, many specialists will treat the two ailments simultaneously with anti-reflux surgery.

If you’ve been diagnosed by your doctor with hiatal hernia or GERD and your issues persist, your doctor may refer you to a digestive specialist, commonly known as a gastroenterologist. Before your appointment, write down any questions you may have so you can remember them when the time comes to share your concerns. You don’t have to live with the uncomfortable symptoms of hiatal hernias and GERD. Make an appointment with the specialists at the Tampa Bay Reflux Center today!