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Hiatal Hernia: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Posted On: January 31, 2020

Hiatal Hernia: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Hiatal hernia also known as hiatus hernia is a disease where the upper section of the stomach pushes through the chest region. Normally, it occurs in the area where the food pipe narrows. The diaphragm is a large muscle that lies between the abdomen and chest.

It is good to know that you use this muscle to breathe. You might be aware that your stomach is below the diaphragm. This is not the case in people who are suffering from hiatal hernia. A portion of their stomach pushes up through the diaphragm.

Hiatal hernia was discovered more than 400 years ago. Henry Bowditch has been credited with the first description of what is now called an esophageal hernia. The first series of this disease was described by a postmortem examination in the 1840s.

In most cases, this condition occurs in people above 50 years. There is no doubt that you can want to know more about this disease. You are definitely in the right place. Let’s take a look at the causes, symptoms and treatment options available.

Types of Hiatus Hernia

Let’s go over the two types of Hiatal hernias.

  • Sliding hiatal hernia. The type I hernias account for over 95% of all Hiatus hernias. The esophageal junction slide through the diaphragmatic hiatus. In fact, this is the reason why this condition was named sliding hiatal hernia.

Despite their commonality, it is quite difficult diagnosing these hernias. The reason behind this is that the gastro-esophageal junction slides up out of the normal position. After some time, it slides back down into the proper place. This leaves the patient without any observable signs.

  • Pure para-esophageal hernia. Unlike type I hernia where the gastro-esophageal junction shifts, the gastro-esophageal junction remains in its original location. We have witnessed very few cases for the last couple of years. Pure PEHs can lead to serious complications.

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What causes hiatal hernia?

The exact cause of the deadly condition is yet to be known. Continuous injuries and other damages may weaken the muscle tissue. This can make your stomach to push through the diaphragm.

There are several risk factors that weaken the hiatus. The most common factor is an opening in the diaphragm through which food passes. Other risk factors include an upward force. This might happen as a result of weightlifting or even straining to empty your bowel. Persistent coughing and vomiting have also been associated with this condition. All these actions will increase the pressure inside the abdominal section.

Do you know that hiatal hernia often occurs in women during pregnancy? How does it happen? The fetus pushes the abdominal parts upward. At times, this might cause them to curve through the part that meets the food pipe.

Previous research has proved that indeed an injury to the diaphragm lead to hiatus hernia. With that in mind, you should avoid any activity that will cause such injuries. In addition, you should avoid regular surgical procedures more so those that involve food pipe. Here are some of the risk factors:

  • Obesity – It is arguably one of the biggest factors that cause Hiatal hernias. Heavyweight will cause increased pressure on the diaphragm.
  • Heavy lifting –  Lifting gym puts stress on the diaphragmatic muscle. This means that the chances of getting an enlarged hole are very high.
  • Coughing – Coughing will make the stomach to squeeze through the diaphragm.
  • Smoking – Smoking weakens the muscles of the diaphragm. Your stomach will protrude above the diaphragm if you smoke regularly.

Symptoms of hiatal hernia

Most Hiatal hernias cause no signs and symptoms. How can the medical professional know that you are suffering from this condition? He or she can detect Hiatal hernias when you are receiving a scan for another reason.

After thorough research, we have compiled symptoms of hiatus hernia.

  • Heartburn – You will feel like a burning in your chest. This is a clear symptom of acid reflux. Do most people experience heartburn? It is more common during pregnancy. You can agree with me that most people get heartburn after meals. If you have heartburn more than twice in a week, then it is advisable to see a health care professional.
  • Vomiting – It is an indication of an underlying disease rather than a specific illness. Have you ever heard about Emesis? It is the medical term of vomiting. In simple terms, we can describe vomiting as the forcible emptying of the stomach. During this process, the stomach undergoes pressure to keep food and other secretion within the stomach.
  • Chest pains –  There have emerged numerous causes of chest pains. A serious form of chest pain is referred to as angina. It is good to be aware that this is a symptom of heart disease. Inadequate supply of oxygen to the heart is one of the multiple causes of chest pains. Away from that, chest pains can be caused by dissection and rib injury.
  • Shortness of breath –  An adult breathes at an average rate of 14 breaths per minute. Hyperventilation is the rapid breathing while dyspnea is shortness of breath. Over the years, many doctors have been classifying dyspnea either occurring at rest or being associated with activity exertion. Anxiety, pneumonia and anaemia are possible causes of short breath.
  • Coughing – This is the expulsion of air from the lungs. Coughing is also called Tussis. It can be categorized into either acute or chronic coughs. What causes chronic coughs? There are multiple possible causes including infectious and non-infectious conditions.

If you have the above signs and symptoms, then you should consider consulting a health expert.

How is hiatal hernia diagnosed?

Hiatus hernia is often discovered during a test or procedure to determine the cause of heartburn, chest or abdominal pains. Top-notch medical practitioners use the following tests of procedures.

  • Upper endoscopy. In this test, a thin flexible tube will be inserted by your doctor. The tube comes with a light and a camera down your throat. The essence of using light is to examine the inside or your stomach and check for possible inflammation.
  • X-ray of your upper digestive system. You will have X-ray only after taking chalky liquid. What is the function of the chalky liquid? It fills the inside lining on the digestive tract.

Esophageal manometry. The rhythmic muscle contractions are measured using this test. In addition, this test has been used to measure the coordination and force exerted by the muscles of your esophagus.

Preparing for your appointment: What can you do?

You might be planning to see a general practitioner. In case you are diagnosed with hiatal hernia and your problems persist even after making some crucial lifestyle changes, you might be referred to a gastroenterologist.  A gastroenterologist specializes in the treatment of digestive diseases.

In that situation, you should do the following things.

  • Make a list of all the medications. The list should include vitamins and supplement you have been taking.
  • Key medical information. You can include other conditions in this write-up.
  • Personal information. Do you have any recent changes or stress in your life?
  • Request a relative to accompany you. They will help you remember what you have been advised by your doctor.
  • You should never forget to analyze some symptoms. Unrelated symptoms should also be included.

What you should ask your doctor

Here are some crucial questions you should never leave out in any appointment.

  • What caused my hiatal hernia?
  • What tests do I need to undergo?
  • How can I prepare for these tests?
  • What are the best treatment options you have?
  • How can I manage other health problems?

Treatment of Hiatal hernia

There are several medications that can be used in treating hiatal hernia. We have analyzed the most reliable treatment options you will ever come across.

  • Open surgeries – It involves entry into the body through an incision. It is done on the left side of your body. Open surgeries are used in emergency situations especially where there is severe bleeding.
  • Laparoscopic surgery –  Surgical instruments are inserted into incisions in the abdomen. It not only boasts of fewer complications but also quicker recovery time.
  • Licorice – This medication has been derived from licorice root. Licorice has been beneficial when it comes to treating heartburn.
  • Ginger – Although ginger is underrated, it is a reliable option in treating symptoms associated with hiatus hernia.

Prevention of Hiatal hernia

If you want to overcome this condition, then you will be forced to address the underlying causes of reflux. There are notable lifestyle changes that will help.

  • Weight loss – This is the right time to invest more energy on weight loss techniques like yoga. Weight loss will prevent gastro-esophageal from developing.
  • High fiber diet – This will contribute to weight loss, In addition, the high fiber content will help to normalize bowel function. In turn, it minimize constipation that contributes to herniation.
  • Proper hydration – You should always take at least eight glasses of water per day. Besides reducing the risk of constipation, water dilutes high concentrations of acid in the stomach.
  • Quitting cigarettes This is a must if you are struggling with constant heartburn. Although smoking does not cause hiatal hernia, it has been known to relax LES.

Final thoughts

Hiatal hernias can’t heal on their own if left untreated. Your condition will be more painful. In some cases, this will cause serious health risks. If the intestine is not getting enough blood, it will burst. You might undergo surgical procedures in hernia treatment. These surgeries are not only painful but also risky. So, what should you do? Losing weight, wearing loose clothing and regular exercises are some workable solutions.

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