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A hiatal hernia occurs when the area where the stomach and the esophagus meet bulges up through the diaphragm into the chest cavity. In some cases, part of the stomach may bulge above the diaphragm. People over the age of fifty years, who are overweight, and who smoke are at a greater risk of developing a hiatal hernia. By making a donation to Northwestern Memorial Foundation, you will help physicians and scientists at Northwestern Medicine work tirelessly to find innovative ways to treat people diagnosed with disorders of the digestive tract and associated organs.  

Experts do not know the exact cause of hiatal hernia, but they do know that some people are born with a large hiatus, which is a hole in the diaphragm. Some risk factors include an upward force that occurs due to lifting heavy weights, straining to empty the bowel, or persistent coughing or vomiting. These actions temporarily increase the pressure inside the abdominal cavity. A hiatal hernia may also occur in women during pregnancy. Another type of rare hiatal hernia occurs when there is a genetic problem associated with the diaphragm. Injury to the diaphragm, such as serious injury from a fall or traffic accident, can also lead to a hiatal hernia. Some surgical procedures involving the esophagus could increase a person’s risk. The need for further research into diagnosis, treatment, and prevention is crucial. By financially supporting Northwestern Medicine, you will help our physician-scientists o achieve important breakthroughs that will benefit people with a hiatal hernia.  

In many cases, a hiatal hernia does not have symptoms. Sometimes symptoms of hiatal hernia are similar to the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). These may include burping, feeling nauseated, vomiting, backflow (reflux) of acid or stomach contents into the esophagus or throat, heartburn, regurgitation, bitter taste in the mouth and trouble swallowing.

Hiatal hernia is classified into two main types:

  • Sliding hiatal hernia:  In a sliding hiatal hernia, the stomach and the section of the esophagus that joins the stomach slide up into the chest through the hiatus. This is the more common type of hernia.
  • Paraesophageal hernia: This type of hiatal hernia is less common, but is more cause for concern. The esophagus and stomach stay in their normal locations, but part of the stomach squeezes through the hiatus, landing it next to the esophagus. The danger of this type of hernia is that the stomach can become “strangled,” or have its blood supply shut off.

Hiatal Hernia Research, Patient Care and Education Donation  

By making a donation to Northwestern Memorial Foundation, you will help Northwestern Medicine’s multidisciplinary team–including gastroenterologists, interventional endoscopists, surgeons, psychologists and dietitians–continue to provide the most comprehensive care to patients affected by hiatal hernias.

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