Learn why hiccups occur and how to treat them. Hiccups are involuntary spasms of the diaphragm (the muscle under the lungs). Hiccups are usually short-lived, but they can be chronic (long-lasting) in rare cases. Men are more likely to get hiccups than women, but nearly everyone will experience
Hiccups are involuntary spasms of the diaphragm (the muscle under the lungs). Hiccups are usually short-lived, but they can be chronic (long-lasting) in rare cases. Men are more likely to get hiccups than women, but nearly everyone will experience hiccups in their lifetime.
Although the exact cause of hiccups is unknown, there are several contributing factors. In addition to home remedies, hiccups can be treated medically. Complications from hiccups can occur if not treated properly.
This article will review the symptoms, causes, and treatment of hiccups.
When a spasm occurs in the diaphragm, the air is quickly sucked into the lungs, causing the vocal cords to close abruptly—resulting in the familiar "hic" sound. During a hiccup, the intercostal muscles (muscles between the ribs) contract, causing the ribs and abdomen to be pulled in. Over time, this movement can become uncomfortable.
Hiccups can come in clusters or occur just once. Often the interval between each hiccup is similar in timing. Most hiccups will resolve within 48 hours; however, intractable hiccups can last for months. Medical intervention is required for intractable hiccups.
Although the exact reason for hiccups is not fully understood, several contributing factors exist.
Acute hiccups (lasting less than 48 hours): The stomach sits below the diaphragm. When the stomach becomes distended from quick inhalation (breath) or the diaphragm is irritated, hiccups can occur. Here are common causes of acute hiccups:
Chronic or Intractable Hiccups (lasting more than 48 hours): In some cases, hiccups can indicate a serious medical issue. The following are conditions that can lead to intractable hiccups.
Acute hiccups typically resolve independently; however, several home remedies can speed up the process. In contrast, chronic or intractable hiccups may need to be treated with medication, medical procedures, or alternative therapies.
Here are some easy and inexpensive ways to treat hiccups at home:
Although treating the underlying condition is essential to curing intractable hiccups, there are medical interventions that can help alleviate the symptoms.
Medical procedures include:
Alternative therapies include:
Acute hiccups are usually harmless; however, chronic or intractable hiccups can lead to the following complications:
Having a thorough assessment by your healthcare provider is vital for diagnosing the cause of chronic or intractable hiccups. You can expect to undergo a physical exam, review of symptoms, and evaluate your current medications.
Based on these findings, your healthcare provider may order bloodwork and imaging tests (X-ray, CT scan, or MRI). You may also need a consult with a specialist such as a neurologist, gastroenterologist, or otolaryngologist.
It's important to contact your healthcare provider for the following symptoms due to hiccups:
Hiccups are a result of involuntary spasms of the diaphragm. Acute hiccups usually last less than 48 hours. Eating too quickly, gulping soda, drinking alcohol, or overeating can cause acute hiccups. In rare cases, hiccups can be chronic or intractable, lasting days or months. Intractable hiccups can be a sign of a serious medical condition.
Several home remedies can cure acute hiccups. Intractable hiccups, however, may need to be treated with medical interventions. Contact your healthcare provider if you have hiccups that last more than 48 hours, have unintentional weight loss, can't eat or drink, and feel your quality of life is affected.
Hiccups are caused by involuntary spasms of the diaphragm. Eating too fast, gulping soda, overeating, drinking alcohol, and smoking can cause hiccups.
Hiccups can be harmful if they interfere with eating, drinking, sleeping, or daily activities.
A stressful event that causes you to take an unexpected deep breath can cause hiccups. Excitement and sobbing can also cause the diaphragm to begin to spasm.
Common techniques to cure the hiccups include holding your breath for five to 10 seconds, performing the Valsalva maneuver, and biting into a lemon.