• Hiccups

    (Singultus)

    Definition

    Hiccups are spasms of the diaphragm muscle. They are repeated and cannot be controlled. This results in an odd, sometimes uneasy gasping sensation and sound with each hiccup.

    Causes

    Hiccups are common. There are many possible causes, including:
    • Drinking a lot of fluids, including alcohol
    • Gastrointestinal conditions, including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
    • Dehydration
    • Stress or intense emotions
    • Some medications
    • Certain conditions that irritate the brain or nerves in the neck (such as goiter, meningitis, multiple sclerosis)
    Phrenic Nerve and Diaphragm
    Phrenic Nerve
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    Risk Factors

    Everyone experiences hiccups at one time or another.

    Symptoms

    Symptoms include:
    • Spasms of the diaphragm muscle that repeat and cannot be controlled
    • Uneasy gasping and sound with each hiccup

    When Should I Call My Doctor?

    Call your doctor if your hiccups:
    • Last for more than two days
    • Are very painful or get in the way of your daily life (such as eating or sleeping)

    Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may need tests if the doctor is concerned that the hiccups may be caused by a condition. These tests might include:

    Treatment

    Many treatments for hiccups involve stimulating nerves that may be involved. This can be done by:
    • Eating hard to swallow items such as granulated sugar or molasses
    • Sucking on ice cubes
    • Gagging with purpose
    • Valsalva maneuver—holding your breath and bearing down, as you might when having a bowel movement
    • Breathing into a bag
    • Gasping with purpose
    Some drugs may help hiccups, including:
    • Chlorpromazine—an antipsychotic medicine approved to treat hard to control hiccups
    • Seizure medicines
    • Medicines used to treat nausea
    • Muscle relaxing medicines

    Prevention

    It is not known why some people get hiccups. There are no sure ways to prevent developing them. However, if you are prone to hiccups, you might want to avoid:
    • Overfilling your stomach
    • Drinking carbonated beverages or alcohol
    • Becoming overexcited (including stress, intense emotion, heavy laughing, or crying)

    RESOURCES

    American Academy of Family Physicians http://familydoctor.org

    National Library of Medicine http://www.nlm.nih.gov

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

    Canadian Institutes of Health Research http://www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca

    References

    Hiccups. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated January 25, 2012. Accessed December 3, 2012.

    What causes hiccups? KidsHealth website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/kid/talk/qa/hiccup.html. Updated October 2011. Accessed December 3, 2012.

    Revision Information

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