How to Tell if You Have A Hiatal Hernia


ID-100167315A hiatal hernia is a type of hernia, and its name derives from the location in which it occurs. When part of an individual’s stomach pushes up into their diaphragm it is known as a hiatal hernia. For most individuals, a hiatal hernia will be small and won’t cause issues that would draw their attention and/or cause discomfort. For these individuals, they may never know that they even have a hiatal hernia unless their doctor discovers it while checking them for another condition; e.g. a chest x-ray or an upper endoscopy. However, for those with a hiatal hernia that does cause discomfort – treatment options will be needed and can be discussed during a visit with your gastroenterologist.

A large hiatal hernia allows food and it’s acid to remain in your esophagus, which then gets backed up. This is the cause of symptoms of a hiatal hernia, which include:

  • An inability to eat a full meal without discomfort
  • Heartburn
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Belching
  • Fatigue

If these symptoms persist, then it is likely time to visit your gastroenterologist for diagnosis and treatment options. Though the causes of a hiatal hernia can range from an injury to the affected area to persistent pressure on the surrounding muscles (vomiting, coughing, strain), it is important that patient’s take note of their symptoms and track them in order to help determine whether the issue is a hiatal hernia or something more severe. When testing for a hiatal hernia, your doctor will either take an x-ray image of your upper digestive tract (GI tract) in order to view your esophagus, stomach, and duodenum (upper area of your stomach) and determine if a hiatal hernia is present, or he or she will perform an endoscopy which uses a small tube that is inserted down the patient’s throat while they are under sedation.

Treatment for a hiatal hernia can range in a simple change in dietary habits – not eating within three hours of going to sleep each night and avoiding acidic foods to medication, to if needed surgical options. Your treatment plan will depend entirely on the severity of your hiatal hernia and what your doctor determines is needed in order to provide relief for your symptoms. If you find that you are experiencing symptoms of a hiatal hernia, please contact San Francisco Gastroenterology in order to discuss these symptoms and make an appointment.

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