Most common in people older than 50, a hiatal hernia affects up to 60% of people older than 60. It’s a condition that occurs when the upper part of your stomach pushes through the hiatus and into your chest. The hiatus is a small opening in the diaphragm muscle through which your esophagus passes on its way to the stomach.
Why certain people develop hiatal hernias isn’t fully understood, but a number of things may contribute to their development, including the aging process, genetics, obesity, and smoking, as well as repeated stress from straining during bowel movements, violent coughing, or lifting heavy objects.
Small hiatal hernias may not give you any symptoms, but larger ones can cause serious issues such as heartburn and shortness of breath. Here at GastroDoxs, Bharat Pothuri, MD sees patients in the greater Houston area who have hiatal hernias. He can help you manage symptoms and repair your hernia so you experience less pain and discomfort.
Dr. Pothuri shares this primer about hiatal hernias. If you suspect you have one, or have already been diagnosed, learn how the team at GastroDoxs can help you to heal.
Types of hiatal hernia
A hiatal hernia can be either sliding or fixed. The common sliding hiatal hernia occurs when your stomach and esophagus slide in and out of your chest. These hernias tend to be small and often don’t cause overwhelming symptoms or require treatment.
A fixed hiatal hernia is less common, but is also more devastating to digestion and comfort. With this type of hernia, part of your stomach protrudes up through your diaphragm and stays put. A fixed hernia causes more symptoms and runs the risk of blocking blood flow to your stomach, causing serious damage.
Signs of a hiatal hernia
Often, a hiatal hernia causes no issues and won’t require treatment. But if symptoms arise that are uncomfortable or unbearable, the team at GastroDoxs can help. Signs of a hiatal hernia include:
- Shortness of breath
- Acid reflux
- Difficulty swallowing
- Chest or abdominal pain
- Black stools or vomiting blood
If you experience any of these symptoms, call GastroDoxs immediately. Dr. Pothuri can evaluate your gastrointestinal tract to determine if a hiatal hernia is causing your problems or if you have another concern that needs medical support.
Treatment for a hiatal hernia
If you have symptoms of food and acid backing up into your esophagus due to the hiatal hernia, Dr. Pothuri offers lifestyle measures and medications that offer relief. In some cases, a very large hiatal hernia may require surgery.
Self-care strategies that ease heartburn include eating several small meals, rather than large meals, throughout the day. It’s wise to avoid foods that trigger heartburn, such as tomato sauce, alcohol, garlic, onion, caffeine, and fatty foods -- or whatever your specific food triggers are.
Avoid lying down after a meal or eating just before bedtime to give your body time in an upright position to digest your food before sleep. Dr. Pothuri can also help you achieve a healthier weight and stop smoking, both of which ease heartburn caused by a hiatal hernia.
Surgery is an option when at-home measures and medications fail to ease your symptoms.
If you’re having severe heartburn that interferes with your quality of life, it may be due to a large hiatal hernia. Regardless of the cause, the team at GastroDoxs is ready to help you restore more normal digestion. Call the office in Cypress, Texas, or book an appointment using this website for assessment and treatment of your gastrointestinal problem.