What Causes a Hiatal Hernia to Occur?

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  • Hiatal hernia can also result from a birth defect, such as being born with an unusually large hiatus. As you grow older, your gastro-esophageal joint eventually rises up, causing the hernia
  • If the hiatal hernia is large enough, undigested food and stomach acid from the herniated stomach area can climb back up to the esophagus, resulting in a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Your diaphragm is a large muscle situated at the lower ribs, and is the chief muscle involved for inhaling air into your lungs. Its other purpose is to separate the organs between the chest and abdominal area.1

The diaphragm also contains a small opening called the hiatus, which is located between the stomach and the esophagus. This is the site where the hiatal hernia occurs.2

The exact cause of a hiatal hernia is unknown, and anyone can develop it. However, doctors observed that those who have been diagnosed with it have a weak diaphragm, allowing the stomach to move upward past the hiatus.3

Risk Factors of Hiatal Hernia

Similar to the causes of hiatal hernia, its risk factors are unknown as well. It’s presumed that it can happen to anyone, but it has been observed to happen more to people who are:

50 years old and above: As you age, your diaphragm gradually weakens.

Overweight: The excess weight on your chest can put upward pressure on your stomach.

Pregnant: Similar to being overweight, pregnancy can cause your stomach to go up, but the baby won’t be affected.4

Fetal Growth Issues Can Cause Hiatal Hernia

Sadly, unborn infants may also develop hiatal hernia. This occurs eight weeks into pregnancy, when the diaphragm is forming. If the diaphragm does not completely form, there will be a hole where the hernia will develop.

The effects won’t be felt immediately, since the infant is using the umbilical cord for sustenance. But when the infant is born, organs can move upward, pushing into the lungs and causing breathing problems.5

Possible Causes of Hiatal Hernia

There are some theories as to how hiatal hernia develops, and most of them are focused on the diaphragm and actions related to it. One possible cause is injury to the chest area. A strong blow can disrupt the placement of the stomach, causing your hiatus to weaken and raise the stomach higher.

Hiatal hernia can also result from a birth defect, such as being born with an unusually large hiatus. As you grow older, your gastro-esophageal joint eventually rises up, causing the hernia. In other cases, it can happen due to performing certain actions that add intense pressure to your chest area, such as coughing, vomiting and straining during a bowel movement. These actions can rupture the surrounding muscles of the hiatus, causing the hernia.6

Hiatal Hernia Can Cause GERD

If the hiatal hernia is large enough, undigested food and stomach acid from the herniated stomach area can climb back up to the esophagus, resulting in a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).7 It causes symptoms such as chest pain, fatigue, sore throat and most notably, heartburn. This is because the esophagus contains sensitive linings that are not designed to handle stomach acids. When these acids touch the esophagus, irritation (and the symptoms of GERD) will arise.

MORE ABOUT HIATAL HERNIA

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What Is Hiatal Hernia?

Hiatal Hernia Symptoms

Hiatal Hernia Causes

Hiatal Hernia Types

Hiatal Hernia Treatment

Hiatal Hernia Surgery

Hiatal Hernia Prevention

Hiatal Hernia Diet

Hiatal Hernia FAQ

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