Hiatal Hernia

Mordecai Dicker, MD

Gastroenterologist located in Great Neck, NY

Because they don’t always cause symptoms, millions of Americans could have a hiatal hernia and not know it. If you have a hiatal hernia that’s giving you trouble or symptoms that point to a hiatal hernia, Mordecai Dicker, MD, provides expert treatment at his practice in Great Neck, New York. Dr. Dicker is a board-certified gastroenterologist who has considerable expertise in treating people who have hiatal hernias, so call Dr. Dicker today to schedule a consultation or book an appointment using the online form.

Hiatal Hernia Q & A

What is a hiatal hernia?

A hiatal hernia is when the upper part of your stomach pushes through a gap in your diaphragm, the large muscle that separates your chest and abdomen and helps you breathe.

A small opening, called the hiatus, in your diaphragm makes room for your esophagus to pass through and connect to your stomach. Sometimes the stomach bulges through the hiatus and into the chest forming a hiatal hernia.

What symptoms do hiatal hernias cause?

Many people have small hiatal hernias without being aware of them because they don’t experience any symptoms. However, larger hernias can cause heartburn, an unpleasant burning pain in your chest caused by acid reflux from the stomach into your esophagus.

Other symptoms of hiatal hernia include:

  • Food regurgitation
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting blood
  • Passing black stools

If you notice your stools are black and tarry, this could be a sign of bleeding in your upper gastrointestinal tract. If you have black stools or you’re vomiting blood, it’s important to consult Dr. Dicker right away.

What causes a hiatal hernia?

Your stomach can push through the diaphragm when the muscles around the hiatus weaken, which could be due to causes like:

  • Aging
  • Injury
  • Surgery
  • Persistent coughing
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Overexertion
  • Straining on the toilet

Some people are born with a larger than normal hiatus, making them more likely to get a hiatal hernia. Your chances of developing a hiatal hernia increase significantly if you’re overweight or obese or over 50.

How are hiatal hernias treated?

If you have a hiatal hernia that’s causing you discomfort, you can help ease the symptoms and prevent them from getting worse by making sure you eat a healthy, balanced diet, manage your weight, and quit any bad habits like smoking. Dr. Dicker can help you make lifestyle changes and give you the support and information you need.

If you experience heartburn because of your hiatal hernia, you could benefit from medications. Over-the-counter antacids can provide temporary relief, but you shouldn’t use them as a long-term solution.

Dr. Dicker can prescribe medicines called H2-receptor blockers that reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces, or stronger acid blockers called proton pump inhibitors that also help heal your esophagus.

If you’re still experiencing symptoms after being on medication or your hiatal hernia is causing severe symptoms, you might need to have surgery.

During hiatal hernia surgery, the surgeon pulls your stomach back down into your abdomen, and repairs or reconstructs the gap your stomach was pushing through to prevent the same thing happening again.

Where possible, Dr. Dicker will refer you to a surgeon who does hiatal hernia surgery laparoscopically, using minimally invasive techniques to reduce tissue trauma and promote faster healing.

If you have any symptoms of a hiatal hernia, call Dr. Dicker today or use the online tool to book an appointment.