What are Symptoms of Hiatal Hernia?
A hiatal hernia is an abnormality where a part of the stomach slides up into the chest cavity, past the diaphragm. It is usually caused by a weakness of the diaphragm muscle. You may not have any symptoms with your hiatal hernia. However, sometimes, hiatal hernias may cause acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), which is when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. This may lead to symptoms such as:
- a burning sensation in your chest (heartburn),
- acid taste in your mouth,
- chest pain,
- stomach pain,
- difficulty swallowing,
- raspy voice,
- sore throat, or
Hiatal hernia definition
The esophagus connects the mouth and throat to the stomach. It passes through
the chest cavity and enters the abdominal cavity through a hole in the diaphragm
called the esophageal hiatus. The term hiatal hernia describes a
condition where a part of the stomach that normally is located in the abdominal
cavity pushes or protrudes through the esophageal hiatus to rest within the
What causes a hiatal hernia?
Normally, the space where the esophagus passes through the diaphragm is sealed by the phrenoesophageal membrane, a thin
membrane of tissue connecting the esophagus with the diaphragm where the
esophagus passes through the diaphragm, so that the chest cavity and abdominal
cavity are separated from each other. Because the esophagus shortens and
lengthens with each swallow, essentially squeezing food into the stomach, this
membrane needs to be elastic to allow the esophagus to move up and down. Normal
physiology allows the gastroesophageal (GE) junction, where the esophagus and
stomach meet, to move back and forth from just below to just above the
diaphragm. However, at rest the GE junction should be located below the
diaphragm and in the abdominal cavity. It is important to remember that these
distances are very short.
Over time, the phrenoesophageal membrane may weaken, and a part of the
stomach may herniate through the membrane and remain above the diaphragm
- Decreased abdominal muscle tone and
increased pressure within the abdominal cavity may lead to the development of a
hiatal hernia. Thus, peopole who are
women who are
pregnant are at an
increased risk for developing a hiatal hernia.
- People who have
or those who have constipation and strain to have a bowel movement, increase the
intra-abdominal pressure when they strain, and this may weaken the
- The membrane also may weaken and lose
its elasticity as a part of aging.
- Ascites, an abnormal collection of
fluid in the abdominal cavity often seen in people with liver failure, also is
associated with the development of a hiatal hernia.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/10/2015