Hiatus Hernia FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

These are questions we are often being asked specifically on Hiatus Hernia, together with our answers. It should be read in conjunction with the page specifically on Hiatus Hernia.

Nothing here is to be taken as medical advice. If in any doubt at all, please consult your family doctor in the first instance.

My last attack lasted 6 hrs and the pain was so bad I thought I was having a heart attack. When does a hiatus hernia become dangerous?

The symptoms can mimic those of a heart attack well enough to fool many a doctor. The excruciating pain, the pain in the jaw, the left arm – classic signs. Most unpleasant. Of course, as it is not a heart attack, that in itself is not as dangerous at all. The worst danger facing most sufferers relates to reflux. That is where the stomach contents are squeezed up into the oesophagus, aka the gullet or ‘food pipe’. That can cause two really dangerous issues:

  1. The reflux material can come up the oesophagus and be aspirated (breathed back in), down the airways. That alone is bad enough, but being acidic, it can trigger a horrible spasm rendering the sufferer unable to clear the airway.                                 .
  2. The acid burning the oesophageal lining over extended periods can cause permanent damage to the tissue, sometimes change the nature of the cells and lead to other very nasty conditions.

Aspirating reflux is possibly the most ‘dangerous’ risk of untreated Hiatus Hernias as it can be fatal. Note though that reflux can arise from causes other than Hiatus Hernia.

Best advice: If you suffer long-term heartburn or indigestion, or prolonged attacks of reflux (awake or asleep) consult your family doctor. He may well refer you to a gastro-enterologist for tests to establish the cause and recommend treatment before it becomes a serious danger.

How long before bed to stop eating would be a nice guide.
I’m sitting here at 4am after just waking with yet another bout of reflux and it was hours ago I last ate. Great page, thank you!

For what to eat and when, ‘little and often’ tends to alleviate symptoms best in most cases. Sadly, even a glass of water before bed can bring it on. If you are having such reflux not having eaten for ‘hours’, then make an appointment to see your family doctor now. Yours is a case in need of proper investigation.

Would be nice to have a link to somewhere (if there is anywhere!) that tells you what to look out for after so much acid burning the throat so many times and aspirating the acid.

First of all, ‘acid burning your throat so many times’ and ‘aspirating the acid’ are BOTH serious symptoms (see the first FAQ above).

Understand that burning really is BURNING. If you look down an endoscope you would see the signs of actual burns. This is very serious and you MUST stop it from continuing.

For immediate relief, many sufferers find products like Gaviscon very effective. However, this is NOT a long term solution to what you describe AT ALL! Your doctor IS.