Simple measures treat symptoms of hiatal hernia
BY DR. KOMOROFF Universal Uclick
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
9/11/12 at 5:15 AM
Dear Doctor K: I had heartburn, and my doctor told me I have a "hiatal hernia." I thought hernias caused pain and swelling in the groin. Could my doctor be wrong?
Dear Reader: Any doctor's diagnosis can be wrong, present company included.
There is a common condition called "inguinal hernia" (or just "hernia") in which the intestine bulges out through a hole in the muscle of the groin. That's the hernia you're describing.
A hiatal hernia is a condition that affects your stomach and esophagus. Hook the tips of your fingers underneath the lowest rib. At about that spot is the diaphragm, a flat muscle that separates your chest from your abdomen. By moving down and up, the diaphragm helps lungs take air in and out.
The diaphragm has a small hole in it. The esophagus, the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach, runs through the hole.
In people with a hiatal hernia, the tissue holding the stomach below the hole in the diaphragm weakens. This allows part of the stomach to slide up into your chest. That's most likely to happen when you do something that raises the pressure in your abdomen, like persistent or heavy coughing, vomiting, or straining while having a bowel movement.
The symptoms are heartburn, belching, bloating, a sense of fullness in the upper part of the abdomen after a meal, or even nausea and vomiting.
The diagnosis of a hiatal hernia sometimes can be made by a chest X-ray. Another type of X-ray, called a barium swallow, also can pinpoint the problem.
If your hiatal hernia causes reflux symptoms, such as heartburn, it may help to eat smaller, more frequent meals. Avoid eating for at least two hours before going to bed, and sit up for at least one hour after eating. If these changes don't help, antacids or acid blockers usually will.
Rarely, surgery may be necessary if you have persistent reflux or inflammation of the esophagus.
Write Dr. K at www.AskDoctorK.com or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut, Kansas City, MO 64106