If you’ve been recently diagnosed with or suspect you may have a hiatal hernia, you may be surprised to know that there are two types of hiatal hernias you may suffer from. Below, we take a look at the difference between these two types: paraesophageal and sliding hernias, and also discuss hiatal hernia treatment.

About hiatal hernias

Hiatal hernias are found in the opening of the diaphragm known as the hiatus. They occur when the stomach pushes through that opening and bulges into your chest or diaphragm. The two types of hiatal hernias, sliding and paraesophageal, are characterized mostly by their location in the body and the potential severity of the condition.

What is a sliding hiatal hernia?

Sliding hernias are the most common type of hiatal hernia, accounting for over 90% of hiatal hernias. Sliding hiatal hernias occur during when the stomach and the section of the esophagus that joins the stomach slide up into the chest through the hiatus. People with a sliding hernia may also present with GERD symptoms such as heartburn.

What is a paraesophageal hernia?

Paraesophageal hernias are less common than sliding hiatal hernias, but can prove to be more concerning. The esophagus and stomach stay in their normal locations, but part of the stomach squeezes through the hiatus, putting it beside the esophagus. 

Paraesophageal hernias may not display any symptoms for those suffering from them, which can cause issues as your stomach can become “strangled” as a result of a paraesophageal hernia. Cases of paraesophageal hernias displaying symptoms are at higher risk to progress into more serious conditions.

Symptoms of paraesophageal hernias

Because of its ability to progress, you should seek medical care the moment your paraesophageal hernia begins causing symptoms. These symptoms can include:

  • Chest pain

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Pain in the upper abdomen

  • Shortnesss of breath

Many people with hiatal hernias (both paraesophageal and sliding) can also suffer from GERD symptoms and while there is a connection, doctors don’t necessarily believe that one causes the other. GERD can be treated with lifestyle and diet changes, as well as surgery for a more permanent solution. If you’ve been diagnosed with a paraesophageal hernia, your doctor will likely test you for GERD.

Who is at risk for hiatal hernias?

Hiatal hernias are more prevalent in women, people with excess weight or who are overweight, and people older than 50.

Hiatal Hernia Treatment

Since most people with hiatal hernias don’t experience any symptoms, treatment is not necessary. However, if you have a paraesophageal hernia that causes the stomach to be strangled, you may need surgery. If your hiatal hernia is accompanied by GERD, then oftentimes your doctor will recommend correcting the hiatal hernia when you undergo surgery for your GERD – killing two birds with one stone.

If you are experiencing any of the abovementioned symptoms and have not sought treatment, reach out to the specialists at Tampa Bay Reflux Center today. You don’t have to live with the uncomfortable symptoms of hernias any longer!