Hiccups are normally harmless, but they can be extremely uncomfortable, even causing nausea in some cases. What is the main cause of hiccups? There are many theories as to what may lead to this annoying and sometimes painful condition, but most medical professionals agree that the most common cause of hiccups is an involuntary spasm of the diaphragm muscle resulting from irritation of the phrenic nerve by diaphragmatic (phrenic) neuropathy.
What are hiccups?
Your hiccup is a brief but violent contraction of your diaphragm. It sounds like a hic followed by a sharp inhalation, and it’s sometimes accompanied by an audible click that can be more easily heard with stethoscopes. The cause is unknown, but hiccups are most often brought on by irritation in or near your throat or esophagus. You may also get them if you eat too fast, drink too much alcohol or caffeine (especially carbonated beverages), smoke cigarettes, have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or swallow air while eating or drinking.
The most common cause of hiccups is a long-term bout with hiccups. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) reports that over 90 percent of people who experience hiccups have them for less than three days. Long-term hiccups can be treated with medications, such as metoclopramide, or by drinking cool liquids and eating bland foods. Acupuncture may also help eliminate long-term bouts with hiccups. It’s important to speak to your doctor about any underlying causes if you are experiencing long-term bouts with hiccups.
How to Make Them Stop?
If you have hiccups that just won’t go away, try eating something sour like lemon or lime juice. You can also try drinking water while holding your breath—the scientific reasoning behind why it works is unclear, but some people swear by it. If none of these options work, see a doctor who might prescribe medication to stop them in their tracks.
Why do Hiccups occur?
The most common reason for hiccups is drinking too quickly. Although it might seem funny, there’s a very reasonable explanation for why that happens. Hiccups are a spasm in your diaphragm. If you drink too quickly, you can pull some liquid into your lungs along with air. That gives both your stomach and your lungs something to do: The lungs expand to take in more air, but because they’re full of liquid from drinking too quickly, they can’t inflate properly and hiccup occurs as they contract. And although it may seem strange that something else happening in your body (your lungs) causes a reaction in another (your diaphragm), that’s just how things work sometimes!
What is the main cause of hiccups?
There are two main causes of hiccups: Eating too quickly (gastroesophageal reflux) and air swallowing. Here’s how they happen: Swallowing involves a series of coordinated muscle movements, but hiccuping can occur without any movement at all. The cause is an involuntary contraction of your diaphragm, which is an involuntary muscle under your lungs that you use to breathe in and out. The diaphragm is controlled by your phrenic nerve—the same nerve that is responsible for triggering hiccups. It controls almost all voluntary muscles below your neck as well, including breathing muscles as well as stomach muscles that move food around.
Nerves and muscles throughout your body can lead to hiccups. But any condition that disrupts your normal eating or digestive process can also cause them, so things like food poisoning, surgical intervention, and eating disorders often bring on bouts of hiccups. When nerves are involved, it’s not uncommon for one side of your body to have a more severe reaction than another. For example, when a tumor presses on your vagus nerve (which runs from the brainstem to the abdomen), you might experience stomach cramps and hiccups in addition to pain in other areas throughout your torso. This is known as referred pain or trigger point hiccup syndrome (also called thoracic outlet syndrome).
Hiccups (or hiccoughs) are sudden and repeated contractions of your diaphragm or chest muscles. This causes you to rapidly and repeatedly make a hic sound in rapid succession. It’s not dangerous and rarely lasts more than an hour. In most cases, you can treat them at home without having to see a doctor.
Hiccups are generally considered a benign condition, but there are cases in which hiccups may signal an underlying medical problem. The most common complication of hiccups is acid reflux disease (also known as GERD). When you experience symptoms like chest pain or difficulty swallowing, contact your doctor immediately because these could be signs that you have developed Barrett’s esophagus, a pre-cancerous condition associated with chronic reflux. Serious conditions that require immediate treatment include pyloric stenosis and Mallory-Weiss syndrome. If you develop sudden onset hiccups accompanied by weight loss and abdominal pain, you should get medical help right away to avoid further complications. Other rarer conditions include cervical spondylosis and phrenic nerve entrapment syndrome.
Drinking too much alcohol can cause hiccups, so it’s probably a good idea to avoid that particular trigger if you want to stop them. Alcohol also causes our bodies to release acetaldehyde, which can irritate our nerves. The irritation leads to spasms in our diaphragm and abdomen—the two major muscles involved in hiccuping. Both reasons can drink too much alcohol and getting hiccups from that alone.
Anxiety and Stress:
When we’re stressed or under pressure, our muscles tense up—especially in our neck and chest. This can inhibit breathing in a way that mimics hiccuping. When you’re stressed, try meditating or doing some deep breathing exercises to relax and release tension. Acupuncture has also been known to stop hiccups on occasion.
According to a 2013 study, people who slept six hours a night had more hiccups than those who slept eight. This could be due to dehydration that happens during sleep deprivation. The more hydrated you are, the less likely your body is to get hiccups. That’s because your nervous system needs water to function properly.
Sipping on a cup of hot tea, coffee or another hot beverage can cause hiccups. According to LiveStrong, swallowing air along with your drink can trigger spasms in your diaphragm—causing you to hiccup. Drinking from a straw may help prevent accidentally gulping in extra air with your beverage and reduce your chances for hiccups.
While hiccups happen for a variety of reasons, one cause is vigorous exercise. As you sweat and your heart rate increases during exercise, lactic acid builds up in your bloodstream, making you more susceptible to muscle spasms and hiccups. While they’re harmless, if they’re severe or chronic—or accompanied by nausea or vomiting—you should see a doctor immediately.
When you eat something spicy, your mouth becomes more sensitive to temperature and that causes a spasm in your diaphragm. When you hiccup, you breathe rapidly to expel whatever is causing it (i.e., air or food) from your throat and esophagus so it doesn’t go down into your lungs.
When should I go see a healthcare provider?
Going to see a healthcare provider for hiccups is usually not necessary. However, if you have recurrent or lasting hiccups that interfere with your daily life and normal functioning, talk to your healthcare provider about going in for an evaluation. If you feel like your hiccups may be related to a serious health problem, call 911 or go to an emergency room right away. A person who has ongoing hiccups should see a doctor within 24 hours. This is especially important for infants and children less than 3 years old, people older than 50 years old, and pregnant women; these groups are at risk for developing severe complications from prolonged episodes of hiccuping, including dehydration and impaired nutrition.
What does it mean if the hiccups last more than two days?
A hiccup is a catch in your breath followed by an involuntary contraction of your diaphragm. In most cases, hiccups are nothing to worry about and will clear up on their own. But if you have a medical condition that increases your risk for complications from hiccups, or if you’ve had chronic (recurring) hiccups for more than two days, call your doctor.
How do I stop my kid’s hiccups?
Unless your child has a disorder that causes hiccups, it’s best to leave them alone. When they’re particularly bothersome, though, there are some tricks you can try. Try massaging your child’s diaphragm (the area between their stomach and chest). This can help calm them down. You could also try to distract them by showing them something interesting or tickling their feet while holding their hands firmly on top of their head.
How are hiccups prevented?
Try not to breathe in food and drink when you’re eating. When we eat, our tongue pushes food into our pharynx, a hollow tube that connects our mouth to our esophagus. As food passes through, it could enter your trachea (windpipe) and trigger a hiccup. So, avoid breathing through your mouth when you’re eating because it may cause hiccups or other digestive issues.
How are hiccups diagnosed?
The most common test to determine what is causing hiccups is a barium swallow. The patient will drink a barium solution, which shows up on an X-ray and highlights any abnormalities in the esophagus, stomach, or diaphragm. Other tests can include: Ultrasound—This test uses sound waves to produce images of structures inside your body. An ultrasound may show you have excess gas in your stomach, gallstones, or an enlarged liver. Your doctor may also use it to check for diseases like colitis or hepatitis A. A liver biopsy—If your doctor suspects you have liver disease or has ordered other tests that show irregularities, he might order a biopsy during which he removes tissue samples from one part of your liver and examines them under a microscope.
Are there any medications I can take for serious hiccups?
Hiccups are not dangerous but can be embarrassing. Few medications can take away hiccups for good, but you’ll have to experiment a bit to find out what works best for you. First-generation antihistamines like Chlor-Trimeton and Benadryl may help stop your hiccups, but only temporarily. There is anecdotal evidence suggesting acupuncture also helps with hiccup relief; however, there has been no conclusive scientific research on its efficacy as of yet. If other methods fail to work and your hiccups persist for more than 72 hours or become unbearable, consult your doctor as you may have a serious underlying medical condition.
Can hiccups disappear on their own?
Commonly referred to as singultus or singhle, hiccups can be quite irritating. They are caused by a sudden spasm of your diaphragm (the muscle beneath your lungs that controls breathing). Typically, hiccups disappear on their own after a few minutes. In rare cases, they can last for several days and cause problems such as malnutrition due to loss of appetite. If hiccups are chronic (long-term), seek immediate medical attention.
Who gets hiccups most often?
Although hiccups are a common occurrence, they affect some people more than others. Between 50% and 80% of adults experience at least one episode of hiccups in their lifetime. People who are pregnant, on medications, or with certain medical conditions have an increased risk of experiencing hiccups as well. Certain age groups also tend to get them more often. Nearly 40% of children between 5 and 12 experience at least one bout with hiccups in any given year, while nearly 30% of adults between 30 and 50 years old do as well. As we get older, however, it’s likely that fewer episodes occur each year—only about 14% of adults over 60 years old get hiccups annually.
Can I live a normal life with hiccups?
If you have hiccups and are otherwise healthy, you can live a normal life as long as you’re careful about what you eat. Your hiccups may come from a temporary condition, such as anxiety or overeating, so there’s no need to let your hiccups get in your way when there’s nothing wrong with them. Some other common causes of hiccups include muscle spasms or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). The trick is to pinpoint what’s causing your hiccups so that they go away and don’t come back. You should also talk to your doctor if they’ve lasted more than 24 hours or if they seem like they’re getting worse instead of better.
Hiccups happen when you have a spasm in your diaphragm—the muscle under your lungs that separates your chest from your abdomen. One theory suggests that hiccups might start when you swallow too much air, which causes a bubble to form on top of stomach acid in your esophagus. The sudden air bubble gets stuck, causing an involuntary hic sound. In some cases, hiccups may be caused by indigestion or heartburn.