Hernias occur when part of an organ or tissue exits through a wall in the body. Hiatal hernias are hernias where the upper area of the stomach slips through the diaphragm to the middle of the chest. Usually the diaphragm prevents the esophagus from being hit by stomach acid, so this hernia tends to have many acid-related symptoms. Severe hiatal hernias can lead to more serious side effects. These hernias rarely cause noticeable symptoms initially, so they may go undetected for a long time.
Many doctors view hiatal hernias as mimics. This is due to the symptoms being related to many other disorders. For example, both heart attacks and hiatal hernias cause shortness of breath, chest pain and nausea. There are also various stomach and abdominal illnesses and conditions that share the exact same symptoms. A doctor typically needs to run imaging or do an endoscopy to see if this is truly a hernia or another condition.