Do Hiatal Hernias Cause High Blood Pressure?

By Contributing Writer

  • Overview

    Do Hiatal Hernias Cause High Blood Pressure?
    Most of us will gain extra belly fat around our abdomen as the years go by. Those extra pounds that you have on your hips and thighs generally shift to your abdomen. Hiatal hernia is a common problem and it is estimated that by age 60, more than 50 percent of people have this type of problem. Obesity can put you at major risk of a hiatal hernia. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, has not been linked to hiatal hernias. Primary hypertension generally develops over many years without any identifiable cause. Secondary hypertension is caused by an underlying condition which includes kidney abnormalities, adrenal gland tumors, illegal drugs, steroids and alcohol. A hiatal hernia is often associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease.
  • Identification

    Your chest has a sheet of muscle that is responsible for bringing air into the lungs by contracting and then flattening, called the diaphragm. Normally, your stomach is located below the diaphragm and the esophagus lies above it. The esophageal hiatus is a small opening in the diaphragm where your esophagus connects to your abdomen. A hiatal hernia occurs when a part of the stomach forces its way upward from the abdominal cavity into the chest cavity through this opening. Many patients are unaware that they have a hiatal hernia until their physician finds it upon examination for another medical complaint.
  • Common Symptoms

    The lower esophageal sphincter is a circular band of muscle that is at the bottom of the esophagus. It normally prevents stomach acid from flowing back up to the esophagus but is unable to work properly because of the hiatal hernia. Complaints of acid reflux are common and include a sensation of burning, warmth and pain behind the breastbone. Some patients may have symptoms such as a burning in the back of their throat or a bitter and sour taste in the back of their mouth. These symptoms may worsen when you lie down, lean forward or strain during coughing or a bowel movement. You may have chronic belching and regurgitation (stomach contents back up into the throat). You may feel too full after eating a meal or feel nauseous. You may also have a hoarse voice.

  • Types

    There are two types of hiatal hernia. Sliding hiatal hernia occurs during moments of pressure in the abdominal cavity that causes the parts of the stomach and esophagus to slide up through the esophageal opening. When the pressure is removed, the stomach returns back to its normal position because of gravity. A sliding hiatal hernia is frequently diagnosed. Paraesophageal hernia refers to a fixed type of hernia that occurs when parts of the stomach become permanently trapped into the chest cavity. Complications of a paraesophageal hernia is strangulation, which may cause the death of the tissues involved because they have been cut off from their blood supply. Symptoms of a hernia strangulation include sudden chest pain, difficulty swallowing, abdominal pain, vomiting and indigestion. Surgery is required for a strangulated hiatal hernia or a very large hernia that results in severe acid reflux.
  • Treatment

    The majority of patients do not require treatment because the hernia is small and it doesn't cause symptoms. Lifestyle changes can help ease your symptoms of acid reflux. Avoid smoking, caffeine, chocolate, greasy or fatty foods and alcohol. Eat small meals frequently and never eat within 2-3 hours near your bedtime. Avoid bending, straining, lifting heavy objects and stooping. Shed those extra pounds and avoid wearing tight clothing to reduce abdominal pressure. Elevate the head of your bed by 8-10 inches by using pillows on the upper part of your mattress. This elevation will help gravity keep the stomach acid away from your esophagus while you are lying down. Other treatment includes non-prescription antacids that you can buy over the counter. If the gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is severe, then your physician may prescribe stronger acid blockers or acid reducers.
  • Complications

    Hiatal hernia can increase your risk of GERD, which is a condition that occurs when stomach acid flows back up into your esophagus. A constant flow of stomach acid can irritate the esophagus and cause inflammation, leading to erosive esophagitis. This condition can cause heartburn and pain during swallowing. An esophageal ulcer can lead to anemia because of the chronic loss of blood. Difficulty swallowing may cause weight loss if the patient is unable to receive proper nutrition. The lower esophagus may narrow and scar. Severe complications include difficulty breathing and chest pain, especially in the elderly. It is important to recognize the symptoms of hiatal hernia and a potential heart problem. Cardiac problems usually are described as a heavy pressure, tightness, squeezing, discomfort or a dull ache in your chest. If you are not sure of the source of your chest discomfort, seek medical help immediately.
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