Hiatal Hernia

Centers for Digestive Health

Gastroenterology located in Highland, IN, Merrillville, IN, Gary, IN, DeMotte, IN, Crown Point, IN & Dyer, IN

A hiatal hernia can cause burning pain in your chest due to acid refluxing from your stomach. If you have symptoms of a hiatal hernia, the experienced gastroenterologists at the Centers for Digestive Health can help. The practice has offices in Highland, Merrillville, Gary, Dyer, Crown Point, and DeMotte, Indiana, where the team uses non-surgical approaches to resolving hiatal hernia symptoms. For expert treatment of your hiatal hernia, call the Centers for Digestive Health today or book an appointment online.

Hiatal Hernia Q&A

What is a hiatal hernia?

Hiatal hernias occur when part of the upper section of your stomach protrudes through a space in your diaphragm.

The diaphragm is a sheet of muscle between your abdomen and chest. Where your esophagus connects to your stomach, there's a small opening known as the hiatus. When you have a hiatal hernia, an area of your stomach squeezes through your hiatus and enters your chest cavity.

What symptoms might a hiatal hernia cause?

It's not unusual to have a small hiatal hernia and not realize it, as they may cause no symptoms at all. However, if the hernia gets large enough, it can trigger episodes of heartburn. Heartburn results from stomach acid refluxing into your esophagus, causing burning chest pain.

Other hiatal hernia symptoms include:

  • Regurgitating your food
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Passing black stools
  • Vomiting blood

Black, tarry stools indicate there's bleeding somewhere in your upper gastrointestinal tract. If you have this symptom or you're vomiting blood, you should contact the Centers for Digestive Health immediately.

Why would I have a hiatal hernia?

When the muscles in your body are strong, they prevent your stomach from pushing through the hiatus. You might get a hiatal hernia if the muscles get weak from:

  • Aging
  • Injury
  • Persistent coughing
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Physical overexertion
  • Straining when passing stools
  • Surgery

If you have a hiatus that's larger than average, you're more likely to develop a hiatal hernia. Your risk also increases significantly if you're overweight or obese, and the condition most often affects people over 50.

What treatments are available for a hiatal hernia?

If your hiatal hernia is causing problems like heartburn, making changes to your lifestyle can help significantly. A healthy, balanced diet, avoiding overeating and fatty foods, and stopping smoking can all be beneficial. If you're overweight or obese, the Centers for Digestive Health provides effective weight management programs. 

Medications like H-2-receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors also help by decreasing stomach acid production, effectively reducing heartburn symptoms. For most patients, a combination of lifestyle changes and medication manages hiatal hernia symptoms very well.

In the few cases where this doesn't happen, your Centers for Digestive Health doctor can refer you for surgery to correct your hiatal hernia.

If you think you might have a hiatal hernia, find out for sure and get prompt, expert treatment at the Centers for Digestive Health. Call today or book an appointment online.