A hiatal hernia occurs when the top of the stomach bulges through the muscle meant to separate the chest and abdomen. The hiatus opening at the bottom of the diaphragm allows food from the esophagus to pass into the stomach. When a hiatal hernia occurs, the stomach pushes through the opening and straight into your diaphragm. This reasonably common condition often exacerbated by age. In fact, by age 60 over 60% of people will have some degree of hiatal hernia. Whatever the patient’s age, however, the condition causes considerable discomfort. Smaller hiatal hernias often do not have any associated symptoms or signs; rather, they are found incidentally during other tests. Larger hiatal hernias, however, can cause symptoms such as heartburn, dysphagia, and regurgitation of food into the mouth. Other, more serious symptoms of a hiatal hernia include abdominal or chest pain, vomiting blood, black stools, and shortness of breath.

There is not always a reason why a hiatal hernia occurs, but there are some risk factors that may make it more probable for you to end up with one. These include being over the age of 50, obesity, an injury or trauma to the diaphragm or stomach, a naturally large hiatus, and repeated pressure on the muscles from persistent vomiting, coughing, lifting objects, or excessive exercise.

Common Symptoms

  • Heartburn
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Regurgitation of food into the mouth
  • Vomiting blood