Also called a hiatus hernia, a hiatus hernia is an anatomical abnormality that results when the upper part of the stomach protrudes from the abdominal cavity into the chest cavity. This protrusion occurs through a valve opening in the diaphragm called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The portion of the upper stomach that protrudes into the chest cavity is called a hiatus hernia. Outlined below are a few symptoms of this condition.
One of the most common symptoms of hiatus hernia is acid reflux, a condition characterised by the backwashing of food and gastric acids from the stomach into the oesophagus. Hiatus hernia causes this condition by weakening the lower esophageal sphincter and causing it to malfunction. The LES is a ring of muscle that serves as a valve to keep the stomach's contents in the stomach.
When stomach fluids are refluxed, the acidic content of these fluids irritates or inflames the unprotected cell tissue that lines the oesophagus. This causes a warm, burning sensation or pain in the chest that radiates upward from the stomach toward the mouth. This usually occurs during or after eating a meal.
Regurgitation also results from the weakening of the LES by a hiatus hernia. This allows undigested food in the stomach to be evacuated up and into the oesophagus. These stomach contents may be regurgitated all the way up into the throat and even into the mouth.
Belching and Nausea
Another symptom of hiatus hernia is belching. Belching results when gas that accumulates in the stomach is released through the weakened LES. This gas would otherwise be contained in the stomach most of the time.
In severe cases of hiatus hernia, complications may develop. For example, if a hiatus hernia is twisted or strangulated it cuts off blood supply. A strangulated hiatus hernia causes difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) and severe chest pain.
Symptoms of a hiatus hernia are triggered or aggravated when you lie down, lean forward or strain from lifting a heavy object. These symptoms may also develop or worsen in the third trimester of pregnancy. This is because the enlarging uterus can push the stomach upward against the diaphragm, affecting the LES and aggravating the symptoms of hiatus hernia.