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Digestive health centre

Hiatus hernia

BMJ Group Medical Reference

About one-third of people over 50 have a hiatus hernia.

Between your abdomen and your chest is a thin, dome-shaped muscle called the diaphragm. It sits just below your lungs. Your diaphragm tightens and relaxes as you breathe in and out.

Before your oesophagus (the tube that carries food to your stomach) reaches your stomach, it passes through an opening in your diaphragm. (Doctors call this opening a hiatus.) In some people, the upper part of their stomach bulges up through the opening in their diaphragm and into their chest. When this happens, it's called a hiatus hernia.

You're more likely to get a hiatus hernia if: [11]

  • You're a woman and you're pregnant

  • You're overweight

  • You smoke.

A hiatus hernia can be caused by:

  • Coughing

  • Vomiting

  • Straining.

Sudden physical exertion can also cause a hiatus hernia.

If you have a hiatus hernia, it is easier for acid to get into your oesophagus because the bulging part of the stomach can form a pouch that traps acid. Also, if part of your stomach is in your chest, your chest can no longer press down on your stomach to stop acid flowing back up. [11]

Most people with hiatus hernia don't get any symptoms. Symptoms usually start when acid in your stomach pushes up through the hiatus hernia and causes a burning feeling in your chest. This may make your oesophagus inflamed and painful. Doctors call this oesophagitis.

There's no evidence that hiatus hernia is caused by H. pylori, although many people with hiatus hernia also have H. pylori.

Glossary

inflammation

Inflammation is when your skin or some other part of your body becomes red, swollen, hot, and sore. Inflammation happens because your body is trying to protect you from germs, from something that's in your body and could harm you (like a splinter) or from things that cause allergies (these things are called allergens). Inflammation is one of the ways in which your body heals an infection or an injury.

For more terms related to H. pylori infection

Citations

For references related to H. pylori infection click here.
Last Updated: November 11, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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