What is a hiatal hernia?
Hiatal hernia is a condition in which the upper part of your stomach bulges through an opening in your diaphragm. Your diaphragm is the thin muscle that separates your chest cavity from your abdominal cavity.
Click here to learn more about hiatal hernia…The diaphragm is a large flat muscle at the base of the lungs that contracts and relaxes as you breathe in and out. It separates your thoracic cavity (which houses your lungs and heart) from your abdominal cavity (which houses your stomach and other digestive organs).
The esophagus passes through an opening in the diaphragm called the diaphragmatic hiatus before it attaches to the stomach.
If there is a weakening in your diaphragm in the area of the hiatus (where the esophagus passes through), your stomach may be able to partially slip through the diaphragm into the chest cavity, forming what is known as a sliding hiatal hernia. Normally, the diaphragm contracts and helps to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter when you bend, cough, or strain. When you have a hiatal hernia; however, bending, coughing and straining can make symptoms or acid reflux worse.
How common are hiatal hernias?
They are more commonly found in people over 50 years of age. Obesity and pregnancy can make them worse.
What causes hiatal hernias?
The exact cause is unknown but may be related to the loosening of the tissues around the diaphragm that occurs as we age
How can I prevent hiatal hernia?
There is no way to prevent a hiatal hernia. Dietary and lifestyle modifications can help to alleviate symptoms.
How is hiatal hernia treated?
Often dietary and lifestyle modifications are the only treatment necessary. You may not even notice that you have a hiatal hernia. If you have symptoms of reflux, avoiding eating late at night, avoiding lying down or bending over after eating may help to minimize symptoms. Weight loss may also help.