What are the Symptoms of Hiatal Hernia?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2019
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People do not always develop symptoms of hiatal hernia. In fact, a person with this condition may be completely unaware of it unless a doctor discovers it by accident while treating him for another condition. This is often the case when a hiatal hernia is small. Sometimes, however, larger hiatal hernias do cause symptoms. Among the symptoms of a larger hiatal hernia are chest pain, heartburn, and nausea.

A hiatal hernia is a condition in which a person’s stomach pushes into the diaphragm opening through which the esophagus passes to get to the stomach. Often, this condition does not cause obvious symptoms for the patient. In the case of a small hiatal hernia, a person could have one for quite some time without knowing anything was wrong. Sometimes, however, doctors discover these small hernias when they are examining or treating patients for other conditions. If a hiatal hernia is small and does not cause health problems, a doctor may not recommend treatment for it.


Sometimes people do develop symptoms of hiatal hernia. In the vast majority of these cases, the symptoms involve the digestive tract. For example, a person with this condition may develop heartburn, and in some cases, he may suffer from spasms of the esophagus as well. Sometimes a person with this condition may also suffer from reflux, which occurs when stomach contents move backward into the patient’s esophagus. Frequent belching, coughing, hiccups, and problems with swallowing may also develop when a person has a hiatal hernia. Chest pain, nausea, vomiting, difficulty swallowing, and bloating may occur as well.

Less often, symptoms of hiatal hernia may include difficulty breathing. This may occur when the hernia interferes with the normal movement of the muscles in the patient’s diaphragm. The lungs may have difficulty inflating completely when this occurs.

In extremely rare cases, a person with an exceptionally large hiatal hernia may even develop heart problems. This occurs when the hiatal hernia presses against the heart. Sometimes the pressure, especially when combined with gas pressure, may contribute to the development of degenerative heart disease. In time, this pressure may increase the affected person's risk of having a heart attack.

If a person does not have symptoms of hiatal hernia, he probably won't need treatment. In the event that symptoms do develop, however, a doctor may recommend medications that affect the production of stomach acid to help relieve heartburn and related symptoms. Surgical treatment may be required in severe cases.


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