Diaphragmatic Hernia Symptoms in Adults

A diaphragmatic hernia, or hiatal hernia, occurs when a piece of a patient's stomach migrates up into the chest through an opening in the diaphragm muscle 2. Women older than the age of 50 who smoke or are overweight are at the highest risk of developing a diaphragmatic hernia, according to the Cleveland Clinic 4. Adults who develop diaphragmatic hernia symptoms should consult a physician for further evaluation and care.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Heartburn or Belching

Adults can experience frequent heartburn symptoms due to a diaphragmatic hernia, the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center reports 1. Heartburn can cause an uncomfortable burning sensation at the top of the stomach, immediately beneath the center of the sternum or chest bone. These symptoms arise due to stomach irritation caused by high levels of acid in the stomach. Affected adults may also experience frequent belching or burping in conjunction with heartburn symptoms.


When a portion of the stomach is stuck within the diaphragm, the stomach can become irritated or inflamed. Consequently, adults with a diaphragmatic hernia can develop symptoms of nausea or stomach discomfort, MayoClinic.com reports 3. People who experience persistent or severe nausea accompanied by vomiting should contact a doctor immediately.

Chest Pain

Chest pain is a diaphragmatic hernia symptom in adults, the Cleveland Clinic reports 4. This symptom occurs as a consequence of diaphragm inflammation caused by the unusual stomach protrusion or hernia. Sensations of chest pain can mimic the symptoms of a heart attack and affected adults should seek medical care immediately for further evaluation.

Difficulty Swallowing

Esophageal or throat irritation caused by a diaphragmatic hernia can lead to swallowing difficulties in adults with this condition, MedlinePlus reports 2. Difficulty swallowing may exacerbate nausea symptoms and can contribute to a temporary decrease in appetite. Certain people may also develop an unpleasant or bitter taste within the mouth or a sore throat.