Hiatal Hernia

The diaphragm is the large muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen. It has a small opening called hiatus which allows food tube to pass from the upper body to the stomach region. However, in some cases, the stomach bulges and pushes into the chest region through the hiatus leading to the condition of hiatal hernia. When the hernia is small, it does not pose much risk and most often, you will not notice any symptoms in this case. On the other hand, when the hernia becomes large, it can block the flow of food into the stomach and lead to various complications. You will have to undergo surgery to treat the problem at this stage. Apart from that, you should also make some modifications to your general lifestyle and avoid alcohol and some spicy foods after the surgery. This can give you good results and help the stomach muscles to relax without producing excessive acids.

Types of Hiatal Hernia

-  Sliding hiatal hernia : This is common among elderly people and it is not so dangerous. It happens when the stomach and the food pipe slide into the chest region. It will also slide out on its own when pressure is not there inside the stomach. For this reason, the symptoms are not clearly visible in this situation and there is no treatment for such a hernia. Majority of the people suffering from hiatal hernia have this type of hernia and it does not cause serious complications.

- Fixed hiatal hernia : This is also known as a paraesophageal hernia and it pushes some portion of the stomach through the diaphragm region. It can lead to complications when the stomach gets blocked and surgery needs to be performed to remove the blockage. However, in most cases, it does not lead to severe complications and it can be easily treated without any problems.

Symptoms of Hiatal Hernia

- People suffering from hiatal hernia often complain about heartburn as the acid buildup in the area will be more due to the congestion of the stomach.

- Food can flow back to the mouth and this especially happens with liquid foods when the condition is very severe. This indicates complications as the food pipe can get blocked due to the expansion of the stomach to the diaphragm area.

- Due to the pressure in the stomach area and its easy movement into the chest region, acids can easily flow backwards leading to acid reflux condition. This affects the overall eating pattern of the patients and causes other health problems.

- There will be constant discomfort in the chest and abdominal region and most people complain about severe pain due to this condition.

- Some patients also experience shortness of breath due to hiatal hernia when the hernia is very large and affects the working of stomach and diaphragm muscles.

- Other than that, you may also notice blood in the stools and also while vomiting which indicates gastrointestinal bleeding and this needs immediate medical attention.

-  Some of the common symptoms of hiatal hernia include difficulty in swallowing food as the food pipe can get compressed due to the bulging of the stomach. This condition can trigger general weakness and fatigue as the intake of food gets drastically reduced due to this condition.

Causes of Hiatal Hernia

There can be many causes for this condition and it is difficult to pinpoint any particular one. In many cases, it can also be due to the combination of different health issues.

- Some people are naturally born with a large hiatus and they are more likely to get affected with this condition in future. It can easily allow the stomach muscles to expand into the chest region and thereby create complications in the future.

- When there is an injury to the stomach or chest region due to a trauma, this condition can trigger in some people. In some cases, it can also come after any surgery is performed in this area and the muscles may not have enough strength to hold the stomach from bulging into the chest region.

- Apart from that, you should also understand that old age leads to weakened diaphragm muscles in many people and this can trigger hiatal hernia condition. In this way, the stomach can push into the chest region due to strain and this usually happens while coughing and bowel movements.

- Some people get involved in excessive physical activities and they usually put a lot of pressure on the stomach and chest region while lifting weights and performing strenuous tasks. Apart from that, some people may suffer from various health conditions and have constant vomiting which can put a lot of pressure on the stomach muscles. All these incidents can become causes of hiatal hernia in the future as this pushes the stomach muscles to the chest region.

Diagnosis of Hiatal Hernia

-  Barium X-ray : This is a simple procedure where the patients are supposed to drink a liquid that contains barium before an x-ray is taken of the stomach and diaphragm region. The liquid helps to see the exact location of the stomach and doctors are able to clearly notice if the stomach muscles are reaching to the diaphragm region. This can confirm the presence of hiatal hernia in patients.

- Endoscopy: yet another easy method used in the diagnosis of hiatal hernia is to use the tube with a camera to detect the interior condition of the stomach. The tube is inserted into the food pipe and it can show the clear picture of the inner region of the stomach. This helps the doctors to understand the presence of hiatal hernia when the stomach is having inflammation and reaching the chest region.

-  Oesophagal manometry : The oesophagus muscles expand and contract in a proper rhythm when you swallow anything and measuring this can give a clear indication about the hiatal hernia. When the pressure exerted on these muscles are known with the help of the test, doctors are able to determine if the patient is suffering from hiatal hernia or any other condition.

Prevention of Hiatal Hernia

- There is nothing much you can do to completely prevent hiatal hernia. However, by following these precautionary measures, you will be able to control many symptoms of this condition.

- If you are having any symptoms, it is always advisable to wear loose and comfortable clothing as this reduces the pressure in the stomach region. Remember that putting additional pressure by way of using tight belts or clothing can aggravate the symptoms of hiatal hernia.

-  For people suffering from heartburn, it makes sense to avoid strenuous activities immediately after eating as this can put pressure on the stomach region. Other than that, you should avoid bending or lying down immediately after having food as this can promote acid reflux condition and lead to hiatal hernia symptoms in the long run.

- If you suffer from acid reflux or heartburn, you can raise your head level while sleeping to restrict the upward flow of stomach acids into the chest region. These simple tips can aid you in the prevention of hiatal hernia in the long run.

- Finally, you should always pay attention to your weight as obese people have more tendency to develop hiatal hernia. It makes sense to lose excess weight as this reduces the pressure on the stomach and diaphragm region.

Treatment for Hiatal Hernia

-  You need to understand that treatment for hiatal hernia becomes necessary only when the symptoms are clearly visible or when the problem becomes too painful. In extreme cases, even surgery is used to treat the problem.

-  The common medication available to neutralize stomach acids will be enough in most cases to treat the symptoms. Most of such medication is available over the counter and you can easily get immediate relief by using such medication.

-  If the condition is persistent, you can even choose to use medication that lowers the production of stomach acids. Doctors often advise this after carefully diagnosing the condition and prescribe them to people suffering from this condition for many weeks.

-  When medications are not giving long-term relief, the next option is to consider surgery that can rebuild the oesophagal muscles and make them stronger. The other option is to reduce the hiatus opening so that the stomach can be pushed back to its original place. However, you must understand that surgery may not provide complete relief in the long run when you do not maintain proper weight or when you indulge in strenuous activities in the future.

-  Apart from all these options, you can also make some lifestyle changes and include them as part of the treatment for hiatal hernia. You can reduce the intake of spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol as they increase the production of acids in the stomach. Losing excess weight is also important as this will help you to strengthen the stomach muscles and they will not slide easily into the diaphragm region.

Hiatal Hernia Complications

- Some of the complications of hiatal hernia include chronic inflammation of the lower oesophagus region and the constant sensation of heartburn.

- It can also lead to severe acid reflux and damage the surrounding tissues due to excess acid production in the stomach region.

- When the condition leads to bleeding in the gastrointestinal region, it can cause anaemia and general weakness.

- Some people also experience difficulty in swallowing due to the narrowing of the food pipe and this can lead to other complications in the future.

- Many people complain about severe coughing as the stomach acids easily reach the chest region while sleeping. This can even cause difficulty in breathing and chest pain in many patients.

Myths about Hiatal Hernia

There are many myths about hiatal hernia and you need to be aware of them if you are having some symptoms of this condition. Remember that there is no need to panic when you are diagnosed with hiatal hernia as it rarely causes any complications and you can easily get cured when you approach your doctor.

Myth #1: Hiatal hernia is a rare disease :

This is not true as the disease is very common especially among people above the age of 50. It affects women more than men and it does not cause any symptoms in the majority of the people. You will be surprised to know that most people do not even know that they have this condition until they are thoroughly diagnosed as the symptoms will be absent in many cases. There is no need to provide any treatment when symptoms are not visible and it is not affecting your everyday life.

Myth #2: Hiatal hernia needs surgery :

In most cases, taking common precautions and generic medication will be more than enough to control the symptoms of hiatal hernia. Only in extreme conditions, doctors suggest surgery as an option and you must understand that even after surgery, you need to exercise caution and maintain a proper lifestyle. It is important to control your weight and avoid strenuous activities after the surgery as the hernia can come back when you are not careful about these issues.

Myth #3: Special exercise can cure hiatal hernia :

This is completely false and many people fall for this trap. They believe that some special exercises can put the stomach back in its place and cure hiatal hernia permanently. No amount of exercise will cure the problem and you need to take medication or choose surgery as suggested by your doctor to get rid of this problem.

Conclusion

If you are diagnosed with hiatal hernia, you should take certain precautionary measures and avoid eating some foods suggested by your doctor. This helps the stomach muscles to relax and the medication will be useful in the long run. If everything else fails, you can choose to undergo surgery which can resolve the condition effectively without any hassles. Make sure that you follow a healthy lifestyle after surgery and avoid strenuous workout as this puts unnecessary pressure on the stomach muscles and the hernia can come back to haunt you again in this situation. However, with proper treatment and healthy lifestyle, you can get a complete cure within a few weeks and get back to your normal life.

Last updated on : 24-09-2018

Disclaimer : Docprime doesn’t endorse or take any guarantee of the accuracy or completeness of information provided under this article and these are the views strictly of the writer. Docprime shall not be held responsible for any aspect of healthcare services administered with the information provided on this article.

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