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Hiatal hernia is a condition in which part of the stomach extends through an opening of the diaphragm into the chest. The diaphragm is the sheet of muscle that divides the chest from the abdomen.

The exact cause of hiatal hernias is unknown. The condition may be due to weakness of the supporting tissue. Your risk for the problem goes up with age, obesity, and smoking. Hiatal hernias are very common. The problem occurs often in people over 50 years.

This condition may cause reflux (backflow) of gastric acid from the stomach into the esophagus.

The goals of treatment are to relieve symptoms and prevent complications. Treatments may include:

  • Medicines to control stomach acid
  • Medicine to strengthen the muscles in the lower esophagus that keeps stomach contents from backing up
  • Surgery to repair the hiatal hernia

Other measures to reduce symptoms include:

  • Avoiding large or heavy meals
  • Not lying down or bending over right after a meal
  • Reducing weight and not smoking
  • Raising the head of the bed 4 to 6 inches

If medicines and lifestyle measures do not help control symptoms, you may need surgery.

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