A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of your stomach bulges through the large muscle separating your abdomen and chest (diaphragm).
Your diaphragm has a small opening (hiatus) through which your food tube (esophagus) passes before connecting to your stomach. In a hiatal hernia, the stomach pushes up through that opening and into your chest.
A small hiatal hernia usually doesn't cause problems. You may never know you have one unless your doctor discovers it when checking for another condition.
But a large hiatal hernia can allow food and acid to back up into your esophagus, leading to heartburn. Self-care measures or medications can usually relieve these symptoms. A very large hiatal hernia might require surgery.
A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of your stomach bulges through your diaphragm into your chest cavity.
Most small hiatal hernias cause no signs or symptoms. But larger hiatal hernias can cause:
See your doctor if you have any persistent signs or symptoms that worry you.
A hiatal hernia occurs when weakened muscle tissue allows your stomach to bulge up through your diaphragm. It's not always clear why this happens. But a hiatal hernia might be caused by:
Hiatal hernia is most common in people who are:
A hiatal hernia is often discovered during a test or procedure to determine the cause of heartburn or chest or upper abdominal pain. These tests or procedures include:
An endoscopy procedure involves inserting a long, flexible tube (endoscope) down your throat and into your esophagus. A tiny camera on the end of the endoscope lets your doctor examine your esophagus, stomach and the beginning of your small intestine (duodenum).
Most people with a hiatal hernia don't experience any signs or symptoms and won't need treatment. If you experience signs and symptoms, such as recurrent heartburn and acid reflux, you may need medication or surgery.
If you experience heartburn and acid reflux, your doctor may recommend:
Sometimes a hiatal hernia requires surgery. Surgery is generally used for people who aren't helped by medications to relieve heartburn and acid reflux, or have complications such as severe inflammation or narrowing of the esophagus.
Surgery to repair a hiatal hernia may involve pulling your stomach down into your abdomen and making the opening in your diaphragm smaller, reconstructing an esophageal sphincter or removing the hernia sac.
Or your surgeon may insert a tiny camera and special surgical tools through several small incisions in your abdomen. The operation is then performed while your surgeon views images from inside your body that are displayed on a video monitor (laparoscopic surgery).
Sometimes surgery is done using a single incision in your chest wall (thoracotomy).
Making a few lifestyle changes may help control the symptoms and signs caused by a hiatal hernia. Try to:
You'll probably see a family doctor or general practitioner.
If you've been diagnosed with a hiatal hernia and your problems persist after you make lifestyle changes and start medication, you might be referred to a doctor who specializes in digestive diseases (gastroenterologist).
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask other questions that occur to you during your appointment.
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may leave time to go over points you want to spend more time on. You may be asked: