First Time User? Sign Up Now
First Time User? Enroll now.
Home > Health Library > Hiatal Hernia
If you have been told that you have a hiatal hernia, this topic will give you some basic information about it. A hiatal hernia sometimes happens along with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). And the symptoms of a hiatal hernia are usually caused by GERD. For more information about the symptoms of GERD and how to treat it, see the topic Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).
A hiatal hernia (say "hi-AY-tul HER-nee-uh") happens when part of your stomach bulges up through the diaphragm and into your chest. The diaphragmis a sheet of muscle that separates your belly (abdomen) from your chest.
The hernia bulges through the diaphragm at a place called the hiatus. This is the opening in the diaphragm that the esophaguspasses through. The esophagus is the tube that connects the throat to the stomach.
There are three main types of hiatal hernia: sliding, paraesophageal, and mixed. Most people who have a hiatal hernia have a sliding hiatal hernia.
A hiatal hernia often is caused by weak muscles and tissue within and around the hiatus.
In a sliding hiatal hernia, a small part of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm and into the chest. A valve between the esophagus and the stomach also moves up and away from the diaphragm.
Most people who have a hiatal hernia have no symptoms.
One symptom you may have is heartburn, which is an uncomfortable feeling of burning, warmth, or pain behind the breastbone. It is common to have heartburn at night when you are trying to sleep.
If you often have symptoms or they are severe, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). A hiatal hernia can lead to GERD, and people often have both conditions at the same time.
If you have pain behind your breastbone, it is important to make sure it is not caused by a problem with your heart. The burning sensation caused by GERD usually occurs after you eat. Pain from the heart usually feels like pressure, heaviness, weight, tightness, squeezing, discomfort, or a dull ache. It occurs most often after you are active.
A hiatal hernia often is diagnosed when you see your doctor or have tests for another health problem.
If you have symptoms, your doctor will ask you questions about them. If your symptoms happen often and are severe, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If this is the case, your doctor may do more tests or give you medicine for GERD.
If you have no symptoms, you don't need treatment.
If you have mild symptoms, your doctor may suggest lifestyle changes and perhaps nonprescriptionmedicines. Here are some things to try:
If you often have symptoms or have severe symptoms, you may have GERD. Lifestyle changes may help, and your doctor may prescribe medicine. In severe cases, surgery can be used to pull the hernia back into the belly.
Other Works Consulted
Jeyarajah DR, Harford WV (2010). Abdominal hernias and gastric volvulus. In M Feldman et al., eds., Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease, 9th ed., vol. 1, pp. 379-395. Philadelphia: Saunders.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerArvydas D. Vanagunas, MD, FACP, FACG - Gastroenterology
Current as ofMay 5, 2017
Current as of:
May 5, 2017
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Arvydas D. Vanagunas, MD, FACP, FACG - Gastroenterology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2018 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
131 E. Market St.
Smithfield, NC 27577
10030 Green Level Church Road
Cary, NC 27519
300 Health Park Drive
REX Healthcare of Garner, Suite 110
Garner, NC 27529
UNC REX Healthcare 4420 Lake Boone Trail Raleigh, NC 27607, USA 919-784-3100
Chosen for Excellence
Co-Worker & Physician Login
Rex Connects Blog
Copyright 2018 UNC Health Care. All rights reserved.