Hiatal Hernia | Cary… | Cary Gastroenterology Associates

In human anatomy the abdomen is separated from the chest cavity by a large muscle called the diaphragm. The opening that allows the esophagus and nerves to pass through the diaphragm is called the hiatus. Ordinarily, the stomach is located below the diaphragm, but when a portion of the stomach pushes up through the hiatus, it is known as a hiatal hernia.

What causes hiatal hernias can vary from a potential injury to lifting a heavy objects. Anything that puts repeated pressure on the area, such as coughing and vomiting, can also force the stomach upward through the hiatus. Controllable risk factors for developing a hiatal hernia include obesity and smoking. Hiatal hernias are more common in women and they mostly occur in people over 50.


Hiatal hernias rarely cause symptoms, but when symptoms occur it is normally from stomach acid coming in contact with the esophagus. Symptoms may include:

  • Heartburn
  • Belching
  • Difficulty swallowing

These are all symptoms of esophageal reflux disease (GERD) and can also occur with hiatal hernias.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Contrast imaging, such as a barium X-ray, or an endoscopy are used to diagnose a hiatal hernia. To treat the hernia is, in reality, treating the symptoms of acid reflux. Medications to reduce acid are the most common treatment.

Lifestyle changes can also be useful in reducing symptoms. Changes include maintaining a healthy weight, losing weight (if needed), avoiding abdominal strain, and avoiding foods that may trigger heartburn. Heartburn triggers are different for everyone, but include spicy foods, tomatoes, citrus, chocolate, and drinking alcohol.

If you are experiencing symptoms of acid reflux, it is important to see a gastroenterologist at Cary Gastroenterology to determine the source of the problem. Self diagnosis and self treatment can cause problems over time. Contact us today to make an appointment.

Your Health Matters

Book an appointment today at one of our office locations throughout the Cary, Raleigh, Holly Springs and Triangle region. We are committed to providing you with the most comprehensive quality of gastroenterology care.