What Is an Esophageal Hernia?

What Is an Esophageal Hernia?

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

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

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.