Having just performed a hiatal hernia repair surgery this morning, I thought it might be a good time to discuss symptoms and treatments of this common condition.
About 15% of Americans suffer from hiatal hernias, which occurs when part of the stomach pushes upward through the diaphragm through a small opening called the hiatus.
Symptoms of a Possible Hiatal Hernia
Small hiatal hernias are common and asymptomatic ─ most people aren’t even aware that they have them. But if the hernia is large, the patient will experience a range of unpleasant and painful gastrointestinal problems, including:
- chronic acid reflux
- chest pain
They can also cause chronic belching and nausea.
Risk Factors for Hiatal Hernias
People most commonly at risk for this condition are one or more of the following:
- over age 50
Hernia Treatment Available Before Surgery is Necessary
A combination of medication and lifestyle changes can often alleviate symptoms.
Over-the-counter drugs neutralize stomach acid and provide quick relief. However, they do not heal the inflamed esophagus and can, with overuse, cause diarrhea or constipation.
2. Acid Production Reducers
These drugs are available over-the-counter or by prescription. They do not offer the fast relief that antacids do but provide longer relief.
3. Proton Pump Inhibitor
Like acid production reducers, these drugs offer more extended relief. By blocking acid production, they allow time for the esophagus to heal. These medications are available over-the-counter and by prescription.
Changing Your Lifestyle May Reduce Hernia Pain
Certain lifestyle changes can also have a dramatic effect on hernia symptoms. Some of my patients have avoided surgery by making these improvements:
- Losing weight if you are overweight or obese
- Stopping smoking
- Eating smaller meals
- Avoiding foods that trigger heartburn like alcohol and fatty foods
- Sitting up after eating, rather than lying down
- Eating at least three hours before bedtime
- Reducing stress
If none of these therapies are successful over time, sometimes surgery is the best option if symptoms are not relieved by medication or altering lifestyle.
If your gastroenterologist recommends surgery to repair your hiatal hernia, minimally-invasive laparoscopic hiatal hernia surgery can have you feeling like yourself again within a few weeks.
Instead of a large incision, a laparoscopic operation can offer:
- Less pain after the procedure
- Faster recovery time
- Fewer complications
- Less scarring
If you’re living in New Jersey, ask your doctor to recommend a NJ board certified general laparoscopic surgeon in the event standard hernia treatment is not lessening your pain and discomfort.
Though I specialize in weight loss surgery in central NJ, I’ve performed many hernia repair surgeries in Freehold, NJ since 2009. I perform the majority of these procedures at CentraState Medical Center, where my medical office is located.
Note that this is not a condition to ignore; unfortunately, symptoms will gradually worsen without treatment.
About Dr. Seun Sowemimo, MD, FACS
Dr. Seun is a top NJ bariatric surgeon and the medical director at Prime Surgicare, with offices in Freehold serving Monmouth and Ocean counties. He is board-certified, Columbia and Yale University fellowship-trained in advanced laparoscopic, bariatric and general surgery.
To learn more, visit his YouTube channel or call Prime Surgicare at (732)-982-2002