Hiatal hernias

Guys don't like to admit that they've got a stomachache. It's just not tough. That's why a hiatal hernia that triggers heartburn is usually ignored. If it is discovered, however, a simple surgery can cure it.

A hiatal hernia is a mechanical problem. Essentially, a portion of the stomach has pushed through a weakened patch of the diaphragm and into the chest cavity. This can cause acid reflux and some wicked heartburn.

Who has it?

Doctors estimate that about a quarter of all people over 50 have hiatal hernias.

Who's at risk?

Scientists aren't exactly sure what predisposes someone to developing a hiatal hernia, but if one of your relatives has had one, chances are higher that you could get one too.

Are there any symptoms?

Determining whether you have a hiatal hernia can be tricky. While some hernias may not have any symptoms, larger hernias can cause heartburn, chest pain and belching. The same symptoms can be caused by one too many slices of sausage pizza. If you experience them on a regular basis, though, they could point to a hernia.

How is it diagnosed?
Doctors can use an x-ray or endoscope to find a hiatal hernia.

Are there any treatments?
The easiest way to treat a hiatal hernia is to avoid large or heavy meals and avoid lying down after eating. Weight loss can also help. Doctors may also tell you to take over-the-counter antacids or prescribe a more powerful medicine like H-2 blockers, which reduce the amount of acid in your stomach. Common H-2 blockers include Pepcid, Tagamet, Zantac, and Axid.

Proton pump inhibitors, also known as PPIs, may also be prescribed. They block acid production, giving your body time to repair any damage that acid indigestion may have caused. If you do all of these things and still have symptoms, your doctor may recommend a good surgeon who can repair the damage and effectively cure the hernia.