Hiatal hernia

A hiatal hernia occurs when part of your stomach pushes upward through your diaphragm. Your diaphragm normally has a small opening (hiatus) through which your food tube (esophagus) passes on its way to connect to your stomach. The stomach can push up through this opening and cause a hiatal hernia.

In most cases, a small hiatal hernia doesn't cause problems, and you may never know you have a hiatal hernia unless your doctor discovers it when checking for another condition.

But a large hiatal hernia can allow food and acid to back up into your esophagus, leading to heartburn. Self-care measures or medications can usually relieve these symptoms, although a very large hiatal hernia sometimes requires surgery.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors

Most small hiatal hernias cause no signs or symptoms. However, larger hiatal hernias can cause signs and symptoms such as:

  • Heartburn
  • Belching
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chest or abdominal pain
  • Feeling especially full after meals
  • Vomiting blood or passing black stools, which may indicate gastrointestinal bleeding

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any persistent signs or symptoms that worry you.

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