Although only surgery can remove a hiatal hernia, small hernias normally do not cause any symptoms and require no treatment, as affirmed by WebMD. Individuals who experience symptoms such as heartburn and acid reflux may take certain medications, and surgery is generally reserved only for serious cases and emergencies.
Medications used to treat a small hiatal hernia include over-the-counter antacids, H2-receptor blockers that reduce acid production, and proton pump inhibitors that temporarily block acid production to allow the esophageal tissue time to heal. Individuals can also eat smaller meals, avoid alcohol, stop smoking and elevate the head 6 inches above the bed when sleeping to reduce symptoms, according to WebMD. Individuals can also lose weight if they are overweight as well as avoid foods that lead to heartburn such as onions, citrus fruits, tomato products and chocolate.
A hiatal hernia occurs when the stomach pushes through the opening, known as the diaphragm, between the stomach and the esophagus. Although the cause is unclear, increased pressure on the stomach may lead to the weakening of the stomach muscles, making a hiatal hernia more likely, as stated by WebMD. Most small hiatal hernias go unnoticed until a health care professional discovers it while investigating another condition.