Hiatal hernias and acid reflux are two conditions that often go hand in hand, but how exactly do they relate to one another, and how can you seek treatment if you’re bothered by the pair of conditions. Dr. Koeplin has treated a number of patients dealing with both conditions, and he’s helped find a nonsurgical or operative route to provide relief. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at why these conditions often coexist, and how they are treated.
Hiatal Hernias and Acid Reflux
A hiatal hernia is a medical condition where a small part of your stomach bulges through an opening in your diaphragm. This opening is called a hiatus, and while it’s a normal hole to connect your stomach to your esophagus, problems develop when a portion of your stomach bulges through this opening.
Most small hiatal hernias are asymptomatic, but as they get bigger, they can allow undigested food and stomach acids to make their way back up into your esophagus, causing acid reflux symptoms. Signs of a hiatal hernia that is contributing to acid reflux include:
- Chest discomfort that worsens when bending or lying down
- Stomach or abdominal pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Sore throat
- Frequent burping or coughing
If you’re experiencing acid reflux symptoms, your doctor will conduct a couple different tests to see if the presence of a hiatal hernia could be the root cause of your discomfort. The easiest way to confirm a hiatal hernia is with imaging tests. The most common imaging test is a modified x-ray called a barium swallow that allows the hernia to show up on a standard x-ray. Aside from a barium swallow, an endoscope is another tool doctors may use to look for the development of a hiatal hernia. This is a thin, flexible tube with a small light and a camera attached to it that is placed down your throat when you’re under sedation to look for a hernia.
Treatment For Hiatal Hernias
In order to treat the problem, you have to treat the underlying cause of the issue – the hiatal hernia – not the symptoms, which is your acid reflux. For small hernias, only regular monitoring and small diet or exercise changes may need to be made. For symptomatic hernias, more hands-on treatment may be needed. Prescription medications can help to keep symptoms at bay, but your hernia will still need to be monitored to prevent future issues. Losing weight can also help with your symptoms.
For a good deal of patients with a large symptomatic hiatal hernia, surgery ends up fully addressing the problem. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia, and a couple small incisions are made in the abdomen. Through these small openings, the surgeon gently pushes the stomach out of the opening and back into its normal position. Stitches then tighten up the hiatus to help keep the stomach from getting back into the opening.
You will be on a modified meal plan for a few days while you recover, and once you transition back to solid foods, you’ll be encouraged to eat more small meals instead of a few larger ones, as this will help promote healing. If you’re dealing with acid reflux symptoms and abdominal discomfort, reach out to Dr. Koeplin today to get a diagnosis and treat your condition head on. Treatment has high success rates, so don’t live in discomfort any longer. Call our clinic today.