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Hiatal Hernia

A hiatal hernia occurs when a small portion of the stomach pushes upward through the diaphragm, a sheetlike muscle that separates the lungs from the abdomen. Usually this doesn't cause any symptoms, but it increases the risk of stomach acid backing up into the esophagus (reflux), which can lead to heartburn.

Normally the entire stomach sits below the diaphragm. The esophagus passes through an opening in the diaphragm called the hiatus before it enters the stomach. Weakened tissues within and around the hiatus allow a hiatal hernia to develop.

A hiatal hernia that is not causing symptoms does not usually need any treatment. Treatment for a hiatal hernia that causes heartburn is the same as for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This may include home treatment with nonprescription antacids, acid reducers, or acid blockers; prescription medicines; or, in severe cases, surgery.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter J. Kahrilas, MD - Gastroenterology
Current as of March 6, 2012

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 06, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.