If You Have a Hiatal Hernia…

Learn about the little-understood link between this condition and heartburn.

Sponsored By: PRILOSEC OTC ®

Many people associate hiatal hernia with heavy lifting, but this condition can also be triggered by coughing, vomiting, straining or sudden physical exertion. Pregnancy and obesity are also common triggers.

What occurs inside the body is less well understood. Simply put, a hernia happens any time an internal body part gets pushed into an area where it doesn’t belong. The hiatus refers to the opening in your diaphragm through which the esophagus descends to attach to the stomach. In a hiatal hernia, part of the stomach bulges up through the hiatus and travels into the chest.

As awkward as that sounds, a hiatal hernia by itself does not always cause pain or other symptoms and does not usually require treatment. And to be clear, the hiatal hernia is not the real trigger of your heartburn symptoms. Rather, hiatal hernias are associated with both a weak lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and acid reflux, two root causes of heartburn.

Only a doctor can determine whether you have a hiatal hernia. Although surgical treatment usually isn’t necessary, it may be required if you have a paraesophageal hernia—in other words, a hernia that’s in danger of becoming strangulated or twisted in such a way that it cuts off blood supply. Surgery might also be considered if the hernia causes inflammation of the esophagus (esophagitis) or severe gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms that cannot be controlled with medication.


The material in this site is intended to be of general informational use and is not intended to constitute medical advice, probable diagnosis or recommended treatments. OTC PPIs are only indicated for treatment of frequent heartburn. For severe heartburn or heartburn that persists after trying over-the-counter treatment or lifestyle modifications, visit your doctor to determine the right treatment for you. See the Terms and Conditions for more information.