Hiatus hernia

A hiatus hernia is when part of the upper stomach slides upwards into the chest. It does this by pushing through the natural opening in the diaphragm muscle through which the oesophagus (the pipe that goes from the mouth to the stomach) passes. Hiatus hernias are common, especially in people over 50.

Your stomach usually sits completely below your diaphragm. The diaphragm is the sheet of muscle that separates your chest (where your lungs and heart are) from your abdomen (tummy).

Symptoms of Hiatus Hernia

Most hiatus hernias donít cause any symptoms. If you do get symptoms, they are unlikely to be serious.

A sliding hiatus hernia can cause a problem called gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This is when acid or bile in the stomach rises back up into your oesophagus.

The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn, which causes a warm or burning sensation in your chest. The burning feeling from heartburn can go all the way up to your throat. You may be more likely to notice heartburn after smoking, drinking alcohol or coffee, or eating chocolate. It can also get worse when you bend over or when youíre lying down.

Other symptoms of hiatus hernia and GERD include:

feeling sick or being sick
a cough or wheezing when breathing, especially at night Ė this is caused by breathing in the acid that has come up from your stomach
your mouth filling with saliva
finding it difficult or painful to swallow

You can have a hiatus hernia without GERD, and you can have GERD without having a hiatus hernia, but they often go together.