Hiatal Hernia

A hernia occurs when one part of the body protrudes through a gap or opening into another part. A hiatal hernia forms at the opening in your diaphragm where your food pipe (esophagus) joins your stomach. Part of the stomach pushes through this opening causing a hiatal hernia.

Most small hiatal hernias don't cause problems, and you may never know you have a hiatal hernia unless your doctor discovers it when checking for another condition. But a large hiatal hernia can allow food and acid to back up into your esophagus, leading to heartburn and chest pain. Self-care measures or medications can usually relieve these symptoms, although very large hiatal hernias sometimes need surgical repair.

Small hernias
Most small hiatal hernias cause no problems.

Large hernias
Larger hernias may cause the following signs and symptoms when stomach acids back up into your esophagus: heartburn, belching, chest pain, and nausea. These signs and symptoms tend to become worse when you lean forward, strain, lift heavy objects or lie down, and they can also worsen during pregnancy.

Sometimes, in rare cases, the part of your stomach that protrudes into your chest cavity may become twisted (strangulated) or have its blood supply cut off, leading to severe chest pain, difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), and the obstruction of your esophagus.