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Pain Symptoms of a Hiatus Hernia

author image Cheryl Grace Myers
Cheryl Myers has has a master's degree from Saint Leo University and currently writes for several publications including Fit Pregnancy, Guideposts and Parent's Magazine.
Pain Symptoms of a Hiatus Hernia
Small meals can prevent pain associated with a hiatal hernia.

The hiatus hernia, also called the hiatal hernia, can cause significant pain and discomfort, although some people may not have symptoms or have occasional bouts of digestive distress. A one-way valve at the bottom of the esophagus temporarily opens so food may pass into the stomach, and then closes up to prevent stomach contents from coming back up into the esophagus. A hiatus hernia occurs when the upper stomach pushes through the valve and into the chest cavity. According to Jackson Siegelbaum Gastroenterology practice in Harrisburg Pennsylvania, more than half of adults by age 60 a hiatal hernia.

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Consuming high acidic foods or beverages can cause heartburn, and discomfort is usually worse when lying down or after eating a meal. Swallowing difficulties may occur, and esophageal pain usually accompanies painful swallowing as food travels to the stomach. Esophageal pain may feel like burning or pressure in the chest cavity after swallowing food or beverages. Caffeinated drinks and alcohol beverages may provoke heartburn. According to the Mayo Clinic, citrus juices, chocolate, spicy and tomato-based foods can also cause symptoms.

Belching and Hiccups

The hiatus hernia may cause belching or hiccups shortly after eating a meal. Deep, prolonged and pronounced belching and hiccuping occurs when the upper stomach pushes up through the one-way valve at the base of the esophagus. Deep belching may cause pain in the esophagus and upper stomach. The patient with a sliding hiatus hernia may have more difficulty with deep belching or hiccups in the early digestive process, as the stomach slides back and forth through the valve at the base of the esophagus. A patient with a fixed hiatus hernia may have pressure in the chest at any time.

Sore Throat

A sore throat and croaky voice may occur when stomach contents, such as stomach acids, move up the esophagus. The soreness and croaky voice symptoms may not subside until enough saliva production can neutralize the acidic environment. In long-term, severe cases, the acids coming up through the esophagus and into the oral cavity may cause a permanent damage to the throat and vocal cords, causing a permanent change in voice and constant soreness in the throat. Stomach acid also causes a bitter taste in the mouth and may burn the tongue and damage tooth enamel.

Chest Pain

Unlike some of the other pain symptoms caused by the hiatus hernia, which often appear during or after a meal, chest pain may occur anytime. People with a fixed hernia may have constant chest pains or a feeling of tightness in the chest cavity. The sliding hiatus hernia may cause pain when the hernia slides back and forth through the sphincter in the esophagus. Symptoms may trigger or become aggravated when lifting heavy objects or straining, such as when taking a bowel movement. The pain may occur in the chest, under the breastbone or between the shoulder blades.

Other Symptoms

Vomiting and diarrhea may occur. Vomiting blood or bloody stools may also occur, potentially indicating a fixed or complicated hiatus hernia. Sometimes, a twisted hernia may cause strangulation, cutting off the blood supply and requiring immediate medical intervention. Painful hiccups, vomiting and diarrhea are some of the symptoms that may cause fatigue, weakness and soreness throughout the middle and upper body, anywhere from the abdomen to the throat or back of the head. Aetna InteliHealth, a medical publication in partnership with Harvard Medical School, suggests that symptoms may worsen over time and eventually require some type of treatment, but only 5 percent of cases require surgery--a last resort to relieving symptoms.

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