Hiccups are involuntary contractions of the diaphragm — the muscle that separates your chest from your abdomen and plays an important role in breathing. Each contraction is followed by a sudden closure of your vocal cords, which produces the characteristic "hic" sound.
Hiccups may result from a large meal, alcoholic beverages or sudden excitement. In some cases, hiccups may be a sign of an underlying medical condition. For most people, a bout of hiccups usually lasts only a few minutes. Rarely, hiccups may persist for months. This can result in malnutrition and exhaustion.
Hiccups: What causes them
Hiccups are caused by involuntary contractions of your diaphragm — the muscle that separates your chest from your abdomen and plays an important role in breathing. This involuntary contraction ...
The characteristic sound of a hiccup is the only sign. Sometimes the only symptom is a slight tightening sensation in your chest, abdomen or throat that precedes the sound.
When to see a doctor
The most common triggers for short-term hiccups include:
Hiccups that last more than 48 hours may be caused by a variety of factors, which are generally grouped into the following categories:
Nerve damage or irritation
Central nervous system disorders
Metabolic disorders and drugs
Factors that may increase your risk of hiccups include:
Prolonged hiccups may interfere with:
Preparing for your appointment
While you may initially consult your family physician about your persistent hiccups, he or she may refer you to a doctor who specializes in neurological or gastrointestinal disorders.
What you can do
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
During the physical exam, your doctor may perform a neurological exam, to check your:
If your doctor suspects an underlying medical condition may be causing your hiccups, he or she may recommend one or more of the following tests:
Treatments and drugs
Most cases of hiccups go away on their own, without medical treatment. If an underlying medical condition is causing your hiccups, treatment of that illness may eliminate the hiccups. The following treatments may be considered for hiccups that have lasted longer than two days.
Surgical and other procedures
Lifestyle and home remedies
Although there's no surefire way to stop hiccups, if you have a bout of hiccups that lasts longer than a few minutes, the following home remedies may provide relief:
When long-term hiccups don't respond to other remedies, alternative treatments, such as hypnosis and acupuncture, may be helpful.
You may be able to decrease your frequency of short-term hiccups by avoiding common hiccup triggers, such as:
Last Updated: 2011-06-03
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