Hiccups are sudden, involuntary contractions of the
diaphragm muscle. As the muscle contracts repeatedly, the opening between the
vocal cords snaps shut to check the inflow of air and makes the hiccup sound.
Irritation of the nerves that extend from the neck to the chest can cause hiccups.
Although associated with a variety of ailments (some can be serious such as
pneumonia or when
harmful substances build up in the blood for example from
kidney failure), hiccups are not serious and have no clear reason for occurring.
Rarely, their presence causes health problems such as speech changes or
interference with eating and sleeping.
Many conditions are associated with hiccups, but none has been shown to be the cause of hiccups.
- If a person eats too fast, he or she can swallow air along with food and end up with the hiccups.
- Any other practices that might irritate the diaphragm such as eating too much (especially fatty foods) or drinking too much (alcohol
or carbonated drinks) can make a person prone to having hiccups.
- In these instances, the stomach, which sits
underneath and adjacent to the diaphragm, is distended or stretched. Because
they occur in relation to eating and drinking, hiccups are sometimes thought
to be a reflex to protect a person from
- Strokes or
brain tumors involving the
brain stem, and some chronic medical disorders (such as
renal failure) are
reported to cause hiccups;
trauma to the brain, meningitis, and encephalitis
also may cause hiccups.
- Damage to the vagus or phrenic nerve may cause hiccups to last a long time.
- Some medications that can cause acid reflux may also have hiccups as a side
effect. Most benzodiazepines, including diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax)
and lorazepam (Ativan) can cause hiccups. In addition, medications such
levodopa, nicotine, and ondansetron (Zofran)
can cause hiccups.
- Noxious fumes can also trigger hiccup symptoms.
- A baby may hiccup after crying or coughing. This is common in babies in the
first year. In some instances, babies with
gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) could
be more prone to hiccups.
- Anxiety and stress can induce both short and long-term hiccups
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