A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm, the large muscle that separates your abdomen from your chest. If the hiatal hernia is small, it is possible to live normally with no symptoms. If the hernia is large, it can cause painful symptoms that need to be treated.
Causes of Hiatal Hernia
A hiatal hernia can form as the result of several conditions, but there are situations where the cause is unclear. The most common causes of hiatal hernia are:
- Aging that leads to a weakened diaphragm
- Trauma or injury, or after some surgeries
- A naturally occurring large hiatus that was present at birth
- Persistent pressure on the surrounding muscles. Lifting heavy objects, vomiting, coughing or straining during a bowel movement can provide adequate pressure
Hiatal Hernia Symptoms
If the hernia is small, there are often no symptoms. In larger hernias, symptoms include:
- Regurgitation of food
- Acid reflux
- Difficulty swallowing
- Chest or abdominal pain
- A feeling of fullness after eating a small amount
- Shortness of breath
- Vomiting blood or passing blood in stool
Hiatal Hernia Diagnosis
In order to diagnose a hiatal hernia, your doctor will perform tests. These tests can include x-rays of the digestive system, where you will be directed to drink a liquid that coats the lining of your digestive system. This will allow the doctor to observe if a hiatal hernia is present. You may also undergo an upper endoscopy, where the doctor will insert a tube equipped with a camera down your throat to check for possible inflammation. Esophageal manometry is a procedure in which your esophageal muscle contractions will be measured to check for the amount of force the esophageal muscles exert.
Treatment for Hiatal Hernia
If you are diagnosed with a hiatal hernia, there are treatment options available. If your hernia is small, antacids can help you find relief. You may also be placed on medications that are designed to reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces. Other medications can block acid production completely, allowing the esophagus to heal.
For those who find medication ineffective, surgery may be required. Danny Shouhed, M.D. is a board-certified gastrointestinal surgeon who has the experience necessary to perform hiatal hernia surgery and bring relief to his patients. If you suffer from a hiatal hernia in the Los Angeles area, call the office of Danny Shouhed, M.D. today to schedule a consultation.
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