A hiatus hernia occurs when the upper section of the stomach pushes up into the chest region through a weak area in the diaphragm. It can happen to anyone at any age, although it tends to be more common in individuals who are overweight, over the age of 50 and among pregnant women. There are two main types of this hernia. The most common is referred to as sliding hiatus hernia and this happens when the stomach moves up and down and in and out of the chest with the oesophagus. The less common type is a rolling hiatus hernia, where part of the stomach protrudes up through the diaphragm.
What causes it?
There is not always a clear reason why hiatus hernias happen. However, it is believed to be related to age, as the muscles in the diaphragm become weaker the older we get. In other cases, excessive pressure on the stomach area from coughing, vomiting or lifting heavy objects can trigger the problem. In very rare instances, it can occur when the diaphragm doesn’t develop properly in infancy.
What are the symptoms?
Although there are often not any noticeable symptoms, hiatus hernias can sometimes cause gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), where stomach acid seeps into the oesophagus. This problem can result in symptoms such as heartburn, a bad taste in your mouth, chest pain and problems with swallowing. Hiatus hernias and GORD may also cause coughing and wheezing at night time when you are trying to sleep.
If you have ongoing or severe symptoms of GORD, you should make an appointment with your GP. They may be able to recommend simple treatments you can use at home to help with acid reflux.
However, you will need immediate medical attention if you experience severe pain in the abdomen or chest, you feel nauseous or are vomiting, or you are struggling with bowel movements. These can all be signs that you have a strangulated hernia, which can be a serious health concern.
How can it be treated?
Sometimes, hiatus hernias don’t have any symptoms and do not need to be treated. However, when it does cause problems, treatment usually involves a combination of lifestyle changes and medication. Surgery is only generally considered as a last resort when all other methods of treatment have been unsuccessful or if there are serious health implications.
Lifestyle changes that can help reduce symptoms include eating smaller meals more frequently rather than three large meals a day and avoiding lying down for a few hours after you eat or drink. You should also try to steer clear of food and drink that can make the condition worse, such as spicy, fatty and acidic foods, as well as chocolate, caffeine and alcohol. In addition, it’s a good idea to avoid bending over or stooping down after eating or drinking. If you are overweight, doing regular exercise can help you to get in shape and reduce some of the symptoms. Quitting smoking can also stop irritation of the digestive system.
Many people with a hiatus hernia also find that raising the head of their beds by at least six inches can reduce coughing and breathing difficulties during the night. However, it is best not to use extra pillows for your head, as this can increase pressure on the abdomen and make the problem worse.
Taking over the counter heartburn medicine can also be an effective treatment for GORD. In more severe cases, your doctor might recommend a range of medications that can be taken, including antacids, alginates, H2-receptor antagonists and proton-pump inhibitors.
How can adjustable beds help?
Adjustable beds can be useful for people suffering with hiatus hernias and can be used as a method of long-term treatment. Rather than having to use blocks or wood to raise the head of the bed, you can easily maneuver these furnishings into your desired position with the simple touch of a button. This allows you to sleep with your upper body in a more upright position, helping to reduce pressure on your stomach. Hiatus hernias are often accompanied by high levels of stomach acid, which can cause breathing difficulties during the night when you breath in the acid that has travelled up from your stomach. An adjustable bed allows you to sleep with your abdomen lower than your head to prevent acid reflux and help you get a more restful night’s sleep.
If you are struggling to figure out which of our adjustable beds will help with your medical condition, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly and helpful team. Simply tell us about your symptoms and we will be able to advise you on the best product for your needs and can answer any other queries you may have. You can also enter your details into our form and we will send you a brochure with more detailed information about our products.