A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of your stomach squeezes through your diaphragm into your abdomen and chest region.
The diaphragm is a large muscles layer that separates your chest and abdomen. It helps you with your breathing mechanism. The stomach is located in the lower portion of the diaphragm. It has a small opening called hiatus. The food tube or esophagus passes through this opening to connect to your stomach. When a hiatal hernia occurs, the portion of your stomach is pushed upwards through this opening towards the chest.
The people who are above 50 yrs are prone to have this disorder. According to a report of the Esophageal Cancer Awareness Association, almost 60% of the people who are above 60 yrs old are affected by this problem.
Types of a hiatal hernia
Two types of a hiatal hernia are there. One is sliding hiatal hernia and the other one is a fixed or paraesophageal hernia.
Sliding hiatal hernia
It occurs when the upper part your stomach slides through your stomach into your esophagus through the hiatus. Usually, a sliding hiatal hernia is a small one and is rear to be detected since it rarely shows any indication. You can only come to know about it when your doctor reveals it to you after a thorough investigation.
Fixed hiatal hernia
It is also known as para-esophageal hernia and is not a very commonly occurred hernia. In such condition, the part of your stomach passes through the diaphragm and remains there. In most of the cases, it does not pose any serious threat, but in some cases, there are chances of internal bleeding resulting blood vomiting or black stool.
Proper diagnosis is quite important
Before starting the treatment, it is very important to diagnose the disease properly. Many tests are available amongst which few are very reliable.
You may be asked for a Barium x-ray. You need to have a drink with Barium in it and have an x-ray. The photograph will clearly show if you have a hiatal hernia.
You may be also asked for an endoscopy. A thin tube will be passed through your esophagus into your stomach and your doctor will be able to see the entire picture inside your stomach. It is the most certain method to detect the issue.
Treatment options for a hiatal hernia
Although, in most of the cases, a hiatal hernia does not require any aggressive treatment. But you may need to have it if you have the severe symptom of acid reflux or heartburn. You also need to be cautious if you have blood vomiting or black stool. Initially, you need a proper medication from a specialist doctor. But in some certain advanced conditions, you may need to have surgical intervention as well.
Your doctor may prescribe multiple drugs to overcome your symptoms of a hiatal hernia.
You may be asked to have antacids like ranitidine or famotidine.
You may also be prescribed to take H2-receptor blockers for lowering acid production or proton pump inhibitors that prevents acid production so that the esophagus may have time to heal.
But if you need to rebuild weak esophageal muscles or need to put your stomach back in place and make the hiatus smaller you will need surgical intervention as well. Your surgeon can opt for both the standard incision and laparoscopic surgery considering your exact condition.