What Is an Esophageal Hernia?

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Q:
What Is an Esophageal Hernia?

A:
An esophageal hernia, also known as hiatal hernia, occurs when the upper part of your stomach bulges through the large muscle (diaphragm) separating your abdomen and chest. A small hiatal hernia usually doesn’t cause problems. But a large one can allow food and acid back up into your esophagus, causing heartburn (see pictures below).

Hiatal hernia Hiatal Hernia

Signs and symptoms of large hiatal hernias
  • Heartburn
  • Regurgitation of food or liquids into the mouth
  • Backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus (acid reflux)
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chest or abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting of blood or passing of black stools, which may indicate gastrointestinal bleeding
Risk factors

Hiatal hernia is most common in people who are:

  • Age 50 or older
  • Obese
Causes

The exact causes are not always clear. The possible ones include:

  • Persistent and intense pressure on the surrounding muscles, such as coughing, vomiting, straining during a bowel movement, exercising or lifting heavy objects;
  • Age-related changes in your diaphragm;
  • Injury to the area, for example, after trauma or certain types of surgery;
  • Being born with an unusually large hiatus.

Self-care measures or medications can usually relieve these symptoms. A very large hiatal hernia might require surgery. So please talk your doctor if necessary.

 

Keywords: esophageal hernia

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