Hiatal Hernia

Also known as hiatus hernia or stomach hernia

A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of your stomach bulges through an opening (called the hiatus) in your diaphragm, the muscle that separates the chest and abdomen. This can cause foods and acids in the stomach to backflow into the esophagus. Symptoms may include heartburn, abdominal discomfort, throat irritation, belching, and regurgitation.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    • What causes a hiatal hernia?

      A hiatal hernia happens due to a weakening of the diaphragm muscles. In most cases, the cause of this weakening is unclear, but risk factors include aging, traumatic injury, and abdominal surgery. The hiatal hernia can also be congenital (present at birth) or develop in those who have an abnormally large hiatus. 

    • What does a hiatal hernia feel like and what are the symptoms?

      Most hiatal hernias do not cause symptoms and you may only know you have one if it is discovered in an X-ray or other imaging test. A hiatal hernia can shift the positioning of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) valve and lead to reflux with related heartburn, regurgitation, burping or hiccuping after eating, irritated throat, sour or bitter taste in the mouth, and bad breath.

    • What are the symptoms of a strangulated hiatal hernia?

      If the hernia strangles the blood supply to the stomach, it is a medical emergency that requires urgent medical attention. Symptoms of this complication can include severe chest pain, shortness of breath, fever, fatigue, bloating, vomiting, inability to pass gas, constipation, warmth or redness over the herniation, rapid heart rate, and bloody or tarry stools.

    Key Terms

    A Closer Look at a Hiatal Hernia

    Explore an interactive model that shows how and where a hiatal hernia occurs, along with what it can look like when the stomach pushes into the esophageal hiatus.