The symptoms of a hernia in the esophagus include heartburn, belching, difficulty swallowing, chest pain, abdominal pain and feeling very full after meals, explains Mayo Clinic. Patients may also vomit blood and pass black stool, which may indicate gastrointestinal bleeding.
A hernia that affects the esophagus is called a hiatal hernia, according to WebMD. A sliding hiatal hernia occurs when the stomach and a part of the esophagus slide up into the chest cavity through an opening in the diaphragm called the hiatus. A paraesophageal hiatal hernia occurs when the stomach slides through the hiatus and moves next to the esophagus.
Most hiatal hernias occur after the age of 50, and obesity is a common risk factor, according to Mayo Clinic. Its causes include injury to tissue around the hernia and being born with a large hiatus. A hernia can also develop from lifting heavy objects, coughing, vomiting and straining during a bowel movement.
Most hiatal hernias are treated with medications that neutralize the stomach acid, reduce acid production, or block acid production and heal the stomach, according to Mayo Clinic. Surgery is reserved for emergency situations and patients with persistent symptoms. During the operation, the surgeon pulls the back into the abdomen and makes the hiatus smaller. The procedure may also include reconstruction of the esophageal sphincter and the removal of the hernia sack.