As we’ve discussed on the blog in the past, a hernia occurs when part of an organ is pushed through the muscular wall around it. Since the organ will not retract on its own to allow the muscular wall to heal, typically you’ll need surgery in order to correct a hernia. Depending on the location of the hernia, you may not need to undergo surgery as soon as possible, but there are a number of potential problems associated with untreated hernias that you should be aware of. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at the hiatal hernia and the problems associated with not having the issue surgically addressed.
Don’t Ignore A Hiatal Hernia
A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of your stomach pushes through the large muscle that separates your abdomen and chest (your diaphragm). Your diaphragm has a small opening called a hiatus through which the esophagus passes as it connects to the stomach. If the stomach ends up pushing through this opening, you’ve developed a hiatal hernia.
A hiatal hernia can leave you feeling full sooner or contribute to burping or regurgitation, but there are also some more serious potential issues at play if you don’t have it addressed by a GI specialist. Some of the problems that can eventually develop in patients with untreated hiatal hernias include:
- GERD – GERD, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a condition that involves acid reflux into the esophageal canal. When your stomach cavity has shifted through the diaphragm, it’s easier for stomach acid to make its way back up into the esophageal canal, which can damage its sensitive lining. Over time, untreated GERD can even lead to esophageal cancer.
- Lung Issues – Certain lung conditions and even pneumonia risk is higher among patients with untreated hiatal hernias, as your stomach contents can more easily move back into your esophagus and into one or both lungs.
- Hernia Strangulation – When an organ breaks through the muscular wall that holds it in place, this muscular wall can actually disrupt the flow of blood to the area. If the hernia becomes strangulated, blood flow to your stomach can be impeded, which is considered a medical emergency.
- Worsening Symptoms – Of course, an untreated hernia causes its own symptoms, and these symptoms can worsen if the problem isn’t addressed. Burping, regurgitating, vomiting and swallowing problems can all become more severe if you don’t address the root issue.
- Ulcer Formation – Hiatal hernias can also put excess pressure on your stomach cavity based on how the organ slips back through the diaphragm. This pressure can cause your stomach to retain more acid, which can put you at an increased risk for stomach ulcer formation.
So if you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above, it pays to have a conversation with your primary care physician or a gastrointestinal specialist like Dr. Bhatti. We’ll be more than happy to provide a thorough diagnosis and walk you through your treatment options for whatever is causing your gastrointestinal distress. Don’t make problems worse by ignoring them. Talk with a physician, get a diagnosis and have your hernia appropriately managed. For more information, or for help with your gastrointestinal issue, give Dr. Bhatti and the team at Bhatti GI Consultants a call today at (952) 368-3800.