Hiatal Hernia Overview

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Hernia generally involves penetration of the internal organs through the protective muscle walls that surround them. Depending on the organs involved in causing the disorder, there can be many different types of hernia. Hiatal hernia is a common type of hernia that occurs when the stomach wall presses against the esophageal hiatus, an opening in the diaphragm. The hiatus acts just like a valve, preventing the content of the stomach from reaching inside the esophagus. When the hiatus is weakened, the content of the stomach can be pushed upwards inside the esophagus, causing hiatal hernia. When the disorder occurs in the area above the diaphragm, it is referred to as sliding hiatal hernia. When the disorder occurs in the area below the diaphragm, it is referred to as paraesophageal hiatal hernia.

Hiatal hernia affects both sexes equally. Although it can occur at any age, the disorder has the highest incidence in elderly people. Hiatal hernia is also common in overweight people and in people who frequently sustain intense physical effort (weight lifting).

Some people who suffer from hiatal hernia usually don’t have any symptoms at all. However, hiatal hernia can generate symptoms such as heartburn, abdominal pain and discomfort and nausea. Most people affected by hiatal hernia suffer from heartburn, which usually intensifies after meals. This common symptom of hiatal hernia occurs due to reflux of the stomach content inside the esophagus. When doctors suspect the presence of hiatal hernia in patients, they usually perform additional tests in order to confirm the clinical diagnose. Hiatal hernia can be revealed by X-ray scans, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and computerized tomography. Nowadays, the disorder can be quickly diagnosed with the means of a laparoscope.

Unlike other forms of the disorder, hiatal hernia rarely requires surgery. In fact, in many cases hiatal hernia doesn’t require any medical treatment at all. When patients diagnosed with hiatal hernia complain about heartburn, doctors usually prescribe antacids or other similar medications. Corrective surgery is only required for patients with more serious, complicated forms of hiatal hernia. The surgical intervention is safe and quick, allowing patients to recover completely within a few days after the operation.

Uncomplicated hiatal hernia can be effectively cured by making lifestyle improvements. An appropriate diet and a healthy eating schedule have proved to be very effective ways of correcting hiatal hernia. Also, people who suffer from hiatal hernia are recommended to avoid weight lifting and straining in order to prevent complications.

Although it is very common, hiatal hernia is one of the least threatening forms of hernia and in many cases the disorder disappears on itself. However, if the symptoms generated by the disorder are ongoing or very intense, it is best to inform your physician about this.

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