Acid reflux is a common condition that can cause a great deal of discomfort. Typically associated with various lifestyle factors, did you know it could also be a sign of a hernia?
Here, we will look at whether it could actually be a hernia and how you can effectively manage the symptoms.
What is acid reflux?
Acid reflux, otherwise known as heartburn, produces a burning pain within the lower chest. It occurs when acid from the stomach travels back up into the food pipe. Everyone experiences bouts of heartburn throughout their lives. However, for some people, it never really goes away. If you have it more than twice each week, it is likely a sign of Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
There are a number of reasons why acid reflux can develop. Those who are overweight, who smoke, are obese, or who take certain medications such as antidepressants and asthma drugs, are most at risk of acid reflux. But could it be a sign of a hernia too?
Can a hernia cause acid reflux?
There is a chance your persistent acid reflux could be down to a hiatal hernia. These occur in the upper part of the stomach, causing a bulge to push through the Diaphragm. The Hiatus is a small opening in the Diaphragm and the food pipe passes through it. When a hiatal hernia develops, it pushes the stomach up through the opening where it rests in the chest area.
If the hernia is quite small, it won’t typically cause any symptoms. However, if it is larger, it can cause acid and food to travel back up the pipe, leading to acid reflux. You can determine whether this is down to a hiatal hernia by watching out for the following symptoms:
- Chest or abdominal pain
- Regurgitating food back into the mouth
- Trouble swallowing
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling full not long after you start eating
In serious cases, you may vomit blood or notice that you have black stools. In this instance, you should seek medical attention right away. It could point to gastrointestinal bleeding which could prove serious.
What treatment options are available?
To minimise the symptoms of a mild hernia, you can focus on changing your eating times, as well as losing weight. Ideally, you should avoid eating within 3-4 hours of going to bed. You should also try elevating the head while you sleep to minimise nighttime acid reflux.
If simple lifestyle changes don’t work, or if the hiatal hernia is quite large, surgery may be the best option. This will help to make the hernia smaller while reducing the risk of the hernia becoming strangulated.
If you suspect your acid reflux may be down to a hiatal hernia, book a consultation with Mr Alan Woodward today.