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What is a "hernia"?


Siamak Tabib (Gastroenterologist, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA) gives expert video advice on: What are the symptoms of a hiatal hernia?; What is the treatment for a hiatal hernia? and more...

What is a "hernia"?

A hernia is a defect in the musculature or the muscle wall somewhere in the digestive tract or the abdomen. When a hernia occurs, a certain portion of the intestine, stomach or any other abdominal organ, can potentially stick through this weakened portion of hernia and cause potential problems.

What is a "hiatal hernia"?

A hiatal hernia, a weakening in the breathing muscle or the diaphragm, can allow a portion of the stomach cavity to go through it and come up into the chest area. A hiatal hernia can later promote more acid reflux and cause heartburn, indigestion, or as we call it, gastroesophageal reflux disorder.

What is a "strangulated hernia"?

A “strangulated hernia” or “incarcerated hernia” is a type of hernia where a piece or loop of intestine comes through a weakened portion of the abdominal musculature and as a result blocks or cuts off the blood supply to the section of bowel, and the lack of blood means a lack of oxygen, and without oxygen the tissue has the potential of dying very quickly, causing a surgical emergency where repairs would need to be carried out to cure the strangulated hernia.

What are the symptoms of a hiatal hernia?

Symptoms of hiatal hernia generally are very similar to symptoms of acid reflux or indigestion, namely; heartburn, chest discomfort, a cough, swallowing problems on occasion, difficulty breathing with shortness of breath, a bitter or dry taste in your mouth, and overall burning or pain in the abdominal or chest cavity.

What is the treatment for a hiatal hernia?

The treatment for a hiatal hernia varies, and it really depends on the size of the hiatal hernia. Usually, when there's a small or a medium sized hernia, we treat it as if we were treating acid reflux. We decrease the amount of acid that is produced in the stomach, either by modification of the diet or by medications. These medications can be available both over-the-counter or generally by prescription. When the hernia is very large, and it is getting in the way of someone's symptoms on a daily basis, then there are surgical options available to reduce this hernia and prevent future acid reflux.