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Normally, the junction between the food pipe (oesophagus) and the stomach is at the level of the diaphragm. When this junction (the gastro-oesophageal junction) moves up through the diaphragm taking with it some of the stomach, a hiatus hernia is present.
What causes a hiatus hernia?
With age, the elasticity of the diaphragm and supporting structures is reduced and thus the gastro-oesophageal junction and stomach can move up ("herniated") into the chest cavity. Hiatus hernias occur in about 20% of the population and frequently cause no symptoms.
What are the symptoms of a hiatus hernia?
Hiatus hernias are frequently associated with "reflux" where the stomach contents move up into the oesophagus. This gives symptoms of heartburn and indigestion.
What are the complications of a hiatus hernia?
- Iron deficiency anaemia
- Ulceration and bleeding
- Fibrous narrowing of the oesophagus
(further information on fibrous narrowing of the oesophagus is available under Peptic Oesophageal Strictures Patient Information Fact Sheet