The hiatus is the opening in the diaphragm. The esophagus connects the mouth that goes through the hiatus and connects to the stomach. In a hiatal hernia, the stomach bulges up into the chest through that opening.
The cause of hiatal hernias is unknown most of the time. It is believed that increased pressure in the abdomen from pregnancy, obesity, coughing or straining during bowel movements may play an important role in hiatal hernias.
Women are generally more prone to hiatal hernias as well as people who are overweight and over the age of 50.
Most of the time, there are no signs and symptoms of a hiatal hernia. But if there are symptoms, they are due to GERD where the acid from the stomach moves back up into the esophagus. Some of the symptoms of GERD include:
- chest pain
- retching (dry heaves)
- waterbrash which is the rapid appearance of a large amount of saliva in the mouth that is stimulated by the refluxing acid
These symptoms are usually worse after eating or lying flat. Sitting up or standing helps relieve the symptoms.
Some medications that can help with hiatal hernias are:
- omeprazole (prilosec)
- lansoprazole (prevacid)
- pantoprazole (protonix)
- rabeprazole (aciphex)
- esomeprazole (nexium)
Some lifestyle changes may include:
- elevating the head while sleeping
- small frequent meals
- avoid foods that are spicy, greasy, onions, tomatoes, citrus fruits and any other foods that you notice trigger symptoms
You should ALWAYS talk to your doctor if you suffer from any of these conditions.
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