Some people are also born with an abnormally large hiatus. This makes it easier for the stomach to move through it. Factors that can increase your risk of a hiatal hernia include:
Symptoms of a hiatal hernia
It’s rare for even fixed hiatal hernias to cause symptoms. If you do experience any symptoms, they’re usually caused by stomach acid, bile, or air entering your esophagus. Common symptoms include:
- Heartburn that gets worse when you lean over or lie down
- Chest pain or epigastric pain
- Trouble swallowing
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when the food, liquids, and acid in your stomach end up in your esophagus. This can lead to heartburn or nausea after meals. It’s common for people with a hiatal hernia to have GERD. However, that doesn’t mean either condition always causes the other. You can have a hiatal hernia without GERD or GERD without a hernia.
Types of hiatal hernia
There are generally two types of hiatal hernia: sliding hiatal hernias and fixed, or paraesophageal, hernias.
Sliding hiatal hernia
This is the more common type of hiatal hernia. It occurs when your stomach and esophagus slide into and out of your chest through the hiatus. Sliding hernias tend to be small. They usually don’t cause any symptoms. They may not require treatment.
Fixed hiatal hernia
This type of hernia isn’t as common. It’s also known as a paraesophageal hernia.
In a fixed hernia, part of your stomach pushes through your diaphragm and stays there. Most cases are not serious. However, there is a risk that blood flow to your stomach could become blocked. If that happens, it could cause serious damage and is considered a medical emergency.