When we hear the word hernia, we often assume we’re talking about an injury in the lower abdomen or the pelvic region, but a hernia occurs any time an internal body part pushed into an area where it doesn’t belong, so these types of injuries can happen in other parts of your body. One such hernia is known as a hiatal hernia, and it occurs when your stomach bulges up into your diaphragm. Today, we take a closer look at the causes, symptoms and treatment options for hiatal hernias.
Types of Hiatal Hernias
The hiatus is an opening in your diaphragm through which the esophagus attaches to your stomach. When your stomach pushes up through that opening, this is known as a hiatal hernia, and there are two main types of them.
- Sliding Hiatal Hernia – In this type of hernia, the section of the esophagus that connects to the stomach slides up into the chest cavity through the hiatus. This is the more common type of hiatal hernia.
- Paraesophageal Hiatal Hernia – This less common type of hiatal hernia occurs when both the esophagus and stomach stay in their correct location, but part of the stomach squeezes up through the hiatus, ending up next to the esophagus. This is the more dangerous type of hiatal hernia, as the stomach can become pinched off and have its blood supply blocked.
Causes, Symptoms and Treatments For Hiatal Hernias
The causes of hiatal hernias aren’t well known, but most medical experts believe a person could be at an increased risk for a hiatal hernia if they are born with a larger hiatal opening. Other factors that may increase your risk include pregnancy, old age, obesity or excessive coughing fits.
A lot of people with hiatal hernias have no symptoms, but others may experience heartburn-like pain. Sometimes this condition also leads to the onset of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. A quick doctor exam can explain exactly what’s causing your chest discomfort.
If you’re not experiencing any symptoms, treatment on the hernia generally isn’t necessary. That being said, as we noted when we talked about paraesophageal hernias, blood supply to the stomach can be cut off, and in these cases surgery is necessary. Surgery can be performed in either a laparoscopic or open procedure, but the minimally invasive option is the most common. Most patients can walk around the day after hiatal hernia surgery, and complete recovery takes about 2-3 weeks. Heavy lifting should be avoided for for 2-3 months after surgery. For more information, contact a hernia surgeon today.