Hiatal hernias are fairly common in adults, although not everyone will exhibit symptoms from them. A Hiatal hernia occurs when a portion of your stomach pushes above your diaphragm and into your chest cavity. They're usually caused by excessive amounts of pressure pushing upwards on your abdomen, like when you're lifting heavyweights. They most commonly cause persistent heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms since it's much easier for the acid in your stomach to come back up your esophagus when you have a Hiatal hernia.
Hiatal hernias can be surgically repaired by pushing your stomach back down into your abdomen. The surgery is very effective, and there's a low rate of Hiatal hernias recurring afterward. However, not everyone will necessarily require surgery to manage symptoms. If you're trying to decide whether or not Hiatal hernia surgery is the right approach for you, read on to learn about when you should definitely consider having the surgery.
Non-Surgical Treatments Don't Help Your Symptoms
When you have a Hiatal hernia, most doctors will try a conservative treatment approach first. The same medications used to treat heartburn and GERD, such as antacids and proton pump inhibitors, are used as the first treatment approach for Hiatal hernias. They made your stomach contents less acidic, which helps to reduce the pain you feel from stomach acid coming back up your esophagus.
Unfortunately, conservative treatment approaches don't work for everyone. After all, the medications don't fix your Hiatal hernia, they only help reduce symptoms. If you're still feeling pain after trying medication, then you may want to consider surgery to treat your Hiatal hernia.
Your Hiatal Hernia Is Worsening
Most Hiatal hernias are minor, with only a small portion of the stomach being pulled into your chest cavity. These can still cause symptoms, but they don't often get worse. Major Hiatal hernias, on the other hand, can stretch and weaken your diaphragm as more and more of your stomach pushes through it. This creates a feedback loop where a weakened diaphragm allows more of your stomach through, weakening your diaphragm further. Eventually, other organs in your abdomen can be pulled into your chest cavity. This increases the risk of serious complications, especially as the blood supply is cut off to your stomach or one of your other abdominal organs.
You're Having Trouble Eating Enough Food
If a large portion of your stomach is pulled into your chest cavity, you won't be able to eat very much food during your meals. Food won't enter the portion of your stomach that's in your chest cavity, so a Hiatal hernia has the effect of reducing the useful size of your stomach. You may experience nausea and vomiting after eating, and eating large amounts of food can drastically worsen your GERD symptoms. If you're avoiding eating because of Hiatal hernia symptoms, then surgery is usually the best option. You risk becoming underweight or becoming malnourished if your Hiatal hernia isn't repaired.
If you've been diagnosed with a Hiatal hernia or think that you may have one, schedule an appointment with a general surgeon in your area. During the surgery, your stomach will be pulled back into your abdominal cavity. Afterward, the upper portion of your stomach will be wrapped around the lower part of your esophagus in order to strengthen it and reduce the chances of your Hiatal hernia occurring again.