A hernia occurs when body tissue or part of an organ abnormally exits through the wall of its original cavity. A hiatal hernia describes the upper part of the stomach slipping through the opening in the diaphragm into the middle compartment of the chest. Because the diaphragm prevents stomach acid from rising into the esophagus, a hiatal hernia can have various acid-related side effects. If the herniation is severe, more serious complications or symptoms can develop. Hiatal hernias often don't cause symptoms when they're small, which is why many people are unaware they have one.
Many physicians refer to hiatal hernias as the great mimics because the symptoms of this condition can resemble many different disorders. For example, a hiatal hernia and a heart attack both cause chest pain, shortness of breath, and nausea. Many other abdominal or stomach conditions have these symptoms as well. Physicians can determine whether the issues are the result of a hernia through x-rays or an endoscopy.
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