Frequently Asked Questions About Hiatal Hernia

Frequently asked questions about hiatal hernia

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  • A hiatal hernia involves the hiatus, which is the opening in your diaphragm that separates the upper chest organs from the digestive organs. The top portion of the stomach bulges up the hiatus, causing the hernia
  • There are several ways to help treat a hiatal hernia, such as spreading out the number of meals you eat in a day. Another way is to lose weight, as the excess pounds can add pressure to your chest, causing your stomach to go up

Q: What is a hiatal hernia?

A: Before learning what a hiatal hernia is, you must know what a hernia is in the first place. A hernia occurs when a part of an organ moves through an opening in a muscle that holds it in place. Different hernias can occur throughout your body, producing various symptoms.1

A hiatal hernia involves the hiatus, which is the opening in your diaphragm that separates the upper chest organs from the digestive organs. The top portion of the stomach bulges up the hiatus, causing the hernia.2

Q: What are the various types of hiatal hernia?

A: There are three types of hiatal hernia that you can develop:

Sliding Hiatal Hernia

In this type, the movement of the herniated stomach consistently goes up and down. Upon swallowing, the stomach goes up and when the action is completed, the stomach goes down.3 This type is the most common form of hiatal hernia.4

Fixed Hiatal Hernia

This type is the opposite of sliding hiatal hernia. As the name implies, it is when the hernia stays above the hiatus, even while you swallow. A fixed hiatal hernia typically produces symptoms such as heartburn and esophageal ulcers.5

Strangulated Hiatal Hernia

Strangulated hiatal hernia is a complication that can arise from fixed hiatal hernia. It occurs when the hernia becomes strangled and blood supply is removed. As a result, the affected tissues can die, releasing toxins into your body. This requires immediate treatment to repair the strangulated portion.6

Q: Are there lifestyle strategies or procedures that can help correct a hiatal hernia?

A: There are several ways to help treat a hiatal hernia, such as spreading out the number of meals you eat in a day. Instead of the usual three main meals, you will have to consume smaller, more frequent meals so the hernia will not be strained by a sudden influx of food. This also helps prevent acid reflux from occurring.

Another way is to lose weight, as the excess pounds can add pressure to your chest, causing your stomach to go up. To learn more ways to help treat hiatal hernia, visit the Treatments page.7

Surgery is typically used as a last resort when natural treatments are not effective. There are three common methods that can help repair a hiatal hernia:

Transthoracic surgery: A small incision is made on the left side of your chest to help return the stomach to its correct position.8

Open abdominal surgery: A large cut is made in your belly and a tube will be inserted in your stomach to keep it in place.9

Laparoscopic repair: Five small incisions will be made in your abdomen where tools and a small camera will be inserted. The hernia will be repaired by creating a new gastro-esophageal junction and anchoring it to the diaphragm to prevent upward movement.10

Q: Can a hiatal hernia cause breathing problems?

A: In general, hiatal hernias do not cause breathing problems. However, when symptoms do occur, they’re typically uncomfortable and bothersome. Food may go back up the esophagus, for example.11

For unborn infants though, hiatal hernia can be a serious cause of concern. When the diaphragm does not develop correctly, the stomach and other abdominal organs can move upward and hamper lung growth, causing severe breathing problems once the child is born.12

Q: Do hiatal hernias go away?

A: Most cases of hiatal hernias are actually asymptomatic and do not cause any issues, so there’s usually no need to treat them. However, for those who do develop problems, there are several ways to address them, such as dietary changes, weight loss exercises or, as a last resort, surgery.

MORE ABOUT HIATAL HERNIA

Hiatal Hernia: Introduction

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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