All About Hiatal Hernias

Hiatal hernias occur when part of the stomach pushes up through the diaphragm and into the chest cavity. There are several different types of hiatal hernias that can lead to uncomfortable feelings like heartburn, which may require medication to alleviate.

Normally, the diaphragm separates the chest cavity from the abdomen. A hernia happens when a portion of the stomach forces its way up into a small opening in the diaphragm that allows the esophagus to pass through, called the hiatus. This is usually caused when the muscles and tissue around the hiatus weaken.

There are three different types of hiatal hernias: sliding, paraesophageal, and mixed. A sliding hernia is characterized by movement of the upper stomach into the chest cavity so that the valve that separates the stomach and esophagus is forced up and above the diaphragm. This valve is called the lower esophageal sphincter, and it is in charge of keeping your stomach acid or food from flowing back up into your esophagus.

Paraesophageal hernias are typically more severe than sliding hernias. While the lower esophageal typically stays in place, but the stomach is squeezed up above the chest cavity, where it can remain until surgery. This allows time for a person to develop complications. Additionally, someone can sustain a mixed hiatal hernia where the lower esophageal sphincter is above the diaphragm like in a sliding hernia, but the stomach is pressed into the esophagus like a paraesophageal movement.

It can be difficult to correctly determine if you have a hiatal hernia because its symptoms often mimic those of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and heart problems. Sliding hiatal hernias may be accompanied by heartburn since the lower esophageal sphincter may be impaired in its ability to keep stomach acid from washing up into the esophagus.

Treating hiatal hernias depends on the severity of your problem. If you have only mild symptoms, doctors will probably only suggest lifestyle changes and over the counter medication to help you. Avoiding food that increases a production of stomach acid can aid you in avoiding acid reflux. If problems are severe, you may need stronger medication or even surgery.

However, sometimes doctors prescribe the drug Reglan to treat hiatal hernias that involve chronic acid reflux. The active chemical in Reglan, metoclopramide, has been linked to permanent disorders such as tardive dyskinesia. This can leave a person with hallucinations and uncontrollable muscle movements for the rest of his or her life.

If you or someone you know has suffered this type of negative effect after taking Reglan, you should speak to a lawyer about your rights. For more information, talk to the Reglan attorneys at the law firm of Williams Kherkher today.