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Hiatus hernia

2-minute read

A hiatus hernia is a common stomach problem. Most people have no symptoms, or have mild symptoms like heartburn. There is plenty you can do to reduce the symptoms. Medications can help, too.

What is a hiatus hernia?

A hernia is where a part of the body protrudes through an abnormal opening in another part, and gets into a space where it doesn’t normally sit.

In a hiatus hernia, a part of the stomach pushes up through a hole in the diaphragm, which is the muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen.  So part of the stomach ends up in the lower part of the chest.

A hiatus hernia can also be called a hiatal hernia.

Symptoms of a hiatus hernia

Many people with a hiatus hernia have no symptoms. Some people feel:

  • pain in the abdomen
  • heartburn
  • an acid taste in the back of the mouth
  • bringing food or liquids back up into your mouth
  • acid reflux (acid entering the oesophagus)
  • difficulty swallowing
  • vomiting
  • chest or abdominal pain and shortness of breath

Some people with a hiatus hernia burp a lot.

These symptoms might be worse after meals or when lying down.

If you have severe pain in the chest, or feel short of breath with some chest pain, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.

Treatment of a hiatus hernia

Some people find the symptoms ease up or go away if they lose weight and drink less caffeine and alcohol. If you smoke, quitting will help.

You can buy antacids over the counter to neutralise stomach acid and relieve your symptoms. There are also medicines available - talk to your pharmacist or doctor. A very small number of people need surgery.

Last reviewed: February 2018

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