|Classification and external resources|
There are two major kinds of hiatus hernia: 
- The most common (95%) is the sliding hiatus hernia, where the gastroesophageal junction moves above the diaphragm together with some of the stomach.
- The second kind is rolling (or paraesophageal) hiatus hernia, when a part of the stomach herniates through theesophageal hiatus and lies beside the esophagus, without movement of the gastroesophageal junction. It accounts for the remaining 5% of hiatus hernias. 
A third kind is also sometimes described, and is a combination of the first and second kinds.
Signs and symptoms
Hiatal hernia has often been called the “great mimic” because its symptoms can resemble many disorders. For example, a person with this problem can experience dull pains in the chest, shortness of breath (caused by the hernia’s effect on the diaphragm), heart palpitations (due to irritation of the vagus nerve), and swallowed food “balling up” and causing discomfort in lower esophagus until it passes on to stomach.
In most cases however, a hiatal hernia does not cause any symptoms. The pain and discomfort that a patient experiences is due to the reflux of gastric acid, air or bile. While there are several causes of acid reflux, it does happen more frequently in the presence of hiatal hernia.
The following are risk factors that can result in a hiatus hernia.
- Increased pressure within the abdomen caused by:
- Smoking
- Drug use, such as cocaine
- Diaphragm weakness
In most cases, sufferers experience no discomfort and no treatment is required. However, when the hiatal hernia is large, or is of the paraesophageal type, it is likely to cause esophageal stricture and discomfort. Symptomatic patients should elevate the head of their beds and avoid lying down directly after meals until treatment is rendered. If the condition has been brought on by stress, stress reduction techniques may be prescribed, or if overweight,weight loss may be indicated. Medications that reduce the lower esophageal sphincter (or LES) pressure should be avoided. Antisecretory drugs like proton pump inhibitors and H2 receptor blockers can be used to reduce acid secretion.
The surgical procedure used is called Nissen fundoplication. In fundoplication, the gastric fundus (upper part) of the stomach is wrapped, or plicated, around the inferior part of the esophagus, preventing herniation of the stomach through the hiatus in the diaphragm and the reflux of gastric acid. The procedure is now commonly performedlaparoscopically. With proper patient selection, laparoscopic fundoplication has low complication rates and a quick recovery.
Complications include gas bloat syndrome, dysphagia (trouble swallowing), dumping syndrome, excessive scarring, and rarely, achalasia. The procedure sometimes fails over time, requiring a second surgery to make repairs.
A hiatus hernia per se does not cause any symptoms. The condition promotes reflux of gastric contents (via its direct and indirect actions on the anti-reflux mechanism) and thus is associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). In this way a hiatus hernia is associated with all the potential consequences of GERD – heartburn,esophagitis, Barrett’s esophagus, esophageal cancer and dental erosion. However the risk attributable to the hiatus hernia is difficult to quantify, and at most is low.
Besides discomfort from GERD and dysphagia, hiatal hernias can have severe consequences if not treated. While sliding hernias are primarily associated with gastroesophageal acid reflux, rolling hernias can strangulate a portion of the stomach above the diaphragm. This strangulation can result in esophageal or GI tract obstruction and the tissue can even become ischemic and necrose.
Another severe complication, although very rare, is a large herniation that can restrict the inflation of a lung, causing pain and breathing problems.
Most cases are asymptomatic.
Incidence of hiatal hernias increases with age; approximately 60% of individuals aged 50 or older have a hiatal hernia. Of these, 9% are symptomatic, depending on the competence of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). 95% of these are “sliding” hiatus hernias, in which the LES protrudes above the diaphragm along with the stomach, and only 5% are the “rolling” type (paraesophageal), in which the LES remains stationary but the stomach protrudes above the diaphragm. People of all ages can get this condition, but it is more common in older people.
According to Dr. Denis Burkitt, “Hiatus hernia has its maximum prevalence in economically developed communities in North America and Western Europe … In contrast the disease is rare in situations typified by rural African communities.” Burkitt attributes the disease to insufficient dietary fiber and the use of the unnatural sitting position for defecation. Both factors create the need for straining at stool, increasing intraabdominal pressure and pushing the stomach through the esophageal hiatus in the diaphragm.