A hiatal hernia is when the upper part of the stomach protrudes into the thorax through a tear or weakness in the diaphragm.
While the thought is quite disturbing, it is generally less serious than is sounds and in many cases, there are no symptoms at all.
However, as the stomach pushes up through the opening near the esophagus, it can start to put pressure on valve that divides the esophagus from the stomach and acid reflux and heartburn is often the result, known as a sliding hiatial hernia.
Large hiatal hernias are a common cause of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and so the symptoms experienced are generally related to GERD.
In rare cases, the protruding part of the stomach may become twisted causing severe chest pain, difficulty swallowing and obstruction of the esophagus, known as a rolling hiatus hernia.
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