The throat is connected to the stomach via the esophagus (food pipe) that passes through the chest and enters the belly through an opening in the diaphragm called the esophageal hiatus. A hiatal hernia is a medical condition when the upper part of the stomach that generally is located under the diaphragm pushes through the esophageal hiatus to rest inside the chest cavity. This is the condition that mostly occurs in individuals who are over 50 years old and may possibly require hernia treatment.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Hiatal Hernia?
A Hiatal Hernia does not cause any symptoms and in most cases, they are found incidentally while taking abdominal x-ray or chest x-rays including CT scans and upper GI Series where the patient consumes barium. Moreover, Hiatal Hernia is also found incidentally during the gastrointestinal endoscopy of the stomach, duodenum, and esophagus.
However, if the symptoms occur, they are mainly due to Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) in which the digestive juice from the stomach moves up into the esophagus. The whole digestion thing is a complex process where the food and the digestive juices which contain acid mix together to begin the digestion process.
The stomach has a protective lining that prevents the acid from eating the walls of the stomach. Unfortunately, there is no protective lining in the esophagus and in the case of Hiatal Hernia; the acid is refluxed into the esophagus that causes inflammation and normally a case of GERD.
The symptoms include:
- Water Brash (rapid appearance of the large amount of saliva in the mouth)
- Retching (dry heaves), vomiting, or nausea
- Heartburn: burning or chest pain
- Raspy voice
- Sore throat
- Difficulty swallowing
When you visit the doctor regarding these symptoms, the doctor might check you for Hernia and if he/she detects any signs then you will be prescribed the suitable Hernia treatment.
What Causes a Hiatal Hernia?
The exact cause of a hiatal hernia is not known. The condition may occur mainly due to injuries or other damage that may weaken the muscle tissues. This makes it possible for the upper part of the stomach to slide through your diaphragm. Another reason that possibly leads to a hiatal hernia is repeatedly putting too much pressure on the stomach muscles. This happens when:
- Violent sneezing
- Lifting heavy objects
- Straining during bowel movements
On the other hand, obese people are more prone to get affected with a hiatal hernia as compared to normal individuals.
How is Hiatal Hernia Diagnosed?
Hiatal Hernia is incidentally discovered during a procedure or test to determine chest pain, upper abdominal pain, or heartburn. These procedures or tests include:
- Esophageal Manometry- This test is performed for measuring the rhythmic muscle contractions in the esophagus when you swallow
- Upper Endoscopy- in this procedure, an endoscope (thin, flexible tube equipped with a camera and light) is inserted down the throat for examining the esophagus and stomach
- X-ray of the Upper Digestive System
How is Hiatal Hernia Treated?
A hiatal hernia can be treated using two methods – medications or hernia surgery. If you experience certain symptoms, your doctor may recommend antacids that neutralize stomach acids, medications to reduce acid production, and medications to heal the esophagus.
However, if the medication doesn’t give any relief then Hernia’s operation is a viable option. The surgical intervention may include pulling down your stomach into your abdomen and reducing the size of the opening in your diaphragm or removing the hernia sac.