Do you have persistent heartburn? Perhaps your doctor says it’s reached a chronic stage; you now have acid reflux. What’s causing this painful symptom? It could be a hiatal hernia.
At Turnquest Surgical Solutions, our board-certified bariatric and general surgeons, Dexter Turnquest, MD, and Victoria C. Chang, MD, treat many patients with hiatal hernias, providing relief from acid reflux and other unpleasant side effects.
What is a hiatal hernia?
If you have a hiatal hernia, a pouch from the upper portion of your stomach intermittently pushes into your chest through an opening in your diaphragm, a muscle between your chest and abdomen that helps you breathe.
If the pouch is large and has grown in size, you likely have symptoms that now require medical attention.
Having an opening (hiatus) in your diaphragm is normal. It connects your esophagus to your stomach. The development of a pouch containing part of your stomach sticking through the diaphragm is not.
If the hiatal hernia becomes too large, the opening in the diaphragm permits acids and partially digested foods to move up into your esophagus.
Hiatal hernia symptoms
A large hiatal hernia can cause the following symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD):
- Persistent heartburn
- Acid reflux
- Difficulty swallowing
- Food or liquid backing into your throat or mouth
- Pain in your chest or abdomen
- Shortness of breath
Treatment for a hiatal hernia
You may have tried nonprescription heartburn medications with limited results. Following are standard treatments for acid reflux symptoms resulting from a hiatal hernia.
You may have inadvertently made your heartburn or acid reflux worse. Dietary and other changes may help provide enough relief for you.
If you love caffeine and have large quantities during the day, that could be a major culprit in your heartburn symptoms. Likewise, drinking too much alcohol can result in acid reflux symptoms.
Too many fatty and greasy foods like french fries are known triggers for heartburn, as are an overabundance of citrus, peppermint, and chocolate. Cut back on these known triggers and see if your symptoms subside.
Eat at least three hours before you go to bed. Try a wedge under your mattress to slightly elevate your head and chest while you sleep.
If lifestyle changes alone don’t provide enough relief, prescription medication can help heal your esophagus from the ravages of persistent acid reflux. In most cases, lifestyle changes and prescription medication can control your symptoms.
In more severe cases of uncontrolled acid reflux from a hiatal hernia, surgery may be required. We normally use laparoscopic surgical techniques, which mean making very small incisions that reduce pain, recovery time, and the chance of infection.
If you require surgery, we explain the procedure and provide written pre- and postoperative instructions.
Call one of our two Houston, Texas, offices or request an appointment through our online portal today if you have troublesome heartburn or acid reflux that could be a sign of a hiatal hernia.