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This medical condition occurs when a portion of the stomach bulges into the diaphragm. Small hiatal hernias that do not cause symptoms may go undetected and do not require treatment. A large hiatal hernia, which can cause symptoms like chest pain and heartburn, may require medication and possibly surgery. Hiatal hernia treatment should also include lifestyle changes for symptom relief, such as avoiding alcohol consumption. Work with your doctor to determine the extent of the condition and the best hiatal hernia treatment for you.
Some over-the-counter medications, such as antacids, can provide relief from hiatal hernia symptoms. These measures are temporary and should generally not be used on a long-term basis, because chronic use of antacids may result in diarrhea or constipation. Other medications for long-term hiatal hernia treatment include drugs that lower the production of acid in the digestive tract, such as cimetidine and ranitidine. These medicines are available both over-the-counter or in a prescription-strength dosage.
Over time, stomach acid can damage the esophagus. For symptom relief and to help heal the esophagus, patients may include proton pump inhibitor drugs in their hiatal hernia treatment regimen. These drugs can reduce acid production and gradually help heal the esophagus. They are also available in over-the-counter or prescription-strength dosages.
Hiatal hernia treatment should also include lifestyle changes, which can help alleviate heartburn and chest pain. Alcohol and tobacco use can exacerbate this condition, so patients should avoid them. Overweight or obese patients can benefit from losing excess weight. Those who suffer from chronic stress should strive to minimize this through meditation, exercise classes, or psychological counseling.
Patients may also modify their diet to complement their hiatal hernia treatment. They can avoid certain foods that may exacerbate symptoms, such as spicy foods, onions, and tomato-based foods, as well as chocolate. Consuming several smaller meals instead of a few large ones may also help. After eating, patients should avoid reclining for at least 10 minutes. When lying down, it may help to elevate the head.
It is less common for patients to undergo surgery for hiatal hernia treatment; however, this may be needed for patients with severe symptoms that are not alleviated by medications. A surgeon may use an open surgery or a laparoscopic approach, which uses several smaller incisions instead of a large one. He may need to pull the stomach down and use stitches to hold it in place. In some cases, he may either stitch the hernia closed or apply a mesh graft to the area. Before undergoing any surgery, patients must disclose their other medical conditions, medications, and supplements to ensure safety.
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