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Problems Caused by a Hiatal Hernia

Hiatal Hernia Diagram | Gastroenterologist AtlantaA hiatal hernia, also called a hiatus hernia, can be a difficult problem to live with. This condition occurs when the top portion of the stomach, the fundus, protrudes up through the hiatus, or the opening in the diaphragm. There are two main variations of hiatal hernia. One is the sliding type where the stomach tends to move up and down through the hiatus regularly. The second is the paraesophageal type. This occurs when the stomach slides up through the hiatus and twists or otherwise obstructs the esophagus. Even if these conditions aren’t causing any issues at the moment, over time, they can develop into more serious situations.

Pain and Discomfort

A hiatus hernia has the potential to cause considerable distress for its sufferers. Due to the unnatural position and location of the stomach, people with the condition may experience pain in their chest or abdomen, particularly when slouching, bending, lifting, lying down or inhaling deeply. It may also prove difficult to eat a full meal in one sitting, simply because available stomach space has been reduced. Unfortunately, this pain can easily be confused with the classic heart attack symptom, prompting many people to panic. If you experience this pain regularly and wish to identify the cause, consider making an appointment at GI North.

Acid Reflux

Acid reflux is another common symptom of a hiatus hernia. Due to the dislocation of the stomach, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is unable to close properly. The LES serves as the gate through which eaten food passes into the stomach, and it normally closes afterward to prevent the stomach content from going back up. However, with a hiatus hernia, this function is impaired.

Sleep Apnea

In some cases, a hiatus hernia can also cause sleep apnea. This can happen in two ways. In one, the stomach may protrude through the hiatus enough that normal sleeping respiration is hindered and disrupted. The other is when stomach acid from a malfunctioning LES causes results in inhalation of the caustic vapors, which can also disrupt normal breathing patterns. Sleep apnea is a very serious problem that is important to address. If you suffer from sleep apnea and sleep studies have failed to provide you with answers, a visit to GI North may reveal whether a hiatus hernia is involved.

Strangulation

If the condition becomes serious enough, or if it is aggravated, it could result in a complication known as strangulation. This happens if the stomach twists or becomes stuck in the hiatus, which may cut off the blood supply to the stomach. This is a potentially life-threatening problem that requires emergency surgery to fix.

A hiatal hernia is often a challenging condition to live with, and it can severely disrupt your everyday life. If it has been causing problems for you, you should know that it’s not something you have to endure.

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