A hernia is a protrusion of part of an organ through the muscle wall that surrounds it. A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach pushes up into the chest through a small opening in the diaphragm, the muscle that separates the stomach from the chest. A hiatal hernia results in retention of acid and other contents above this opening. These acids and other substances can easily back up (reflux) into the esophagus.
Many people age 50 and over have small hiatal hernias; however, hiatal hernias may affect people of all ages.
Suggested causes of hiatal hernia include the following:
- sudden physical exertion
Obesity and pregnancy can also contribute to this disorder.
Specific treatment for hiatal hernia will be determined by your physician based on:
- your age, overall health, and medical history
- extent of the condition
- your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- expectations for the course of the condition
- your opinion or preference
Although hiatal hernias usually do not require treatment, treatment may be necessary if the hernia is:
- in danger of becoming strangulated (twisted in a way that cuts off blood supply).
- complicated by severe gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
- complicated by esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus).
Surgery may be needed in these cases to reduce the size of the hernia, or to prevent strangulation.
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Online Resources of Digestive Disorders