Spotting a hiatal hernia can be confusing since some of the symptoms mimic other conditions. The only way to know for sure is to note the symptoms and when they occur. For a proper diagnosis, a full physical examination is always the best practice.
In simple terms, a hernia occurs when part of an organ protrudes somewhere it shouldn’t. In the case of a hiatal hernia, the upper part of the stomach bulges through the large muscles that separate the abdomen from the chest, also known as the diaphragm. Small hiatal hernias usually cause no issues, but that narrow opening in the chest can compress part of the stomach allowing food and acid to backup into the esophagus causing heartburn. Most who suffer with these annoying symptoms can get relief with OTC medications.
If symptoms become more acute, you should see Surgical Consultants of Northern Virginia for an examination and possible tests. Common indicators include:
A weakening of the muscle tissue of the diaphragm is a major cause of hiatal hernias. It isn’t exactly clear why this occurs, but being over the age of 50, a prior surgery, injury, or a congenital condition are some associated causes.
If you are overweight, a smoker, participate in strenuous exercise or frequently do heavy lifting, these activities can put you at risk for a hiatal hernia. Pregnancy and being over the age of 50 can also increase your risk.
It may seem that the symptoms of a hiatal hernia and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) are quite similar. The only way to get a proper diagnosis is to have a complete exam with Dr. Brett Sachse. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, your physician may recommend some changes to your lifestyle like losing weight, reducing the size of meals, avoiding certain kinds of foods like tomatoes and alcohol, and refraining from lying down after meals.
There are a number of tests to determine if someone is suffering from GERD or a hiatal hernia. It is important to note that although a hiatal hernia can cause GERD, not all people with a hiatal hernia will develop GERD, and most people with GERD do not have a hiatal hernia.
Once your physician completes a series of tests and determines you have a hiatal hernia, there are a number of treatment options available. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, the size of the hernia, and your general health, prescription medications, changes in lifestyle habits or even surgery may be recommended.
Contact Surgical Consultants of Northern Virginia for a thorough evaluation if you have symptoms of a hiatal hernia or if you experience chest pains.