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Dealing with the hiccups

I think that it is safe to say that all of us have experienced hiccups at some point during our lives. In most cases, hiccups are more of an annoyance rather than a serious medical condition. Hiccups are due to involuntary contractions of the...


I think that it is safe to say that all of us have experienced hiccups at some point during our lives. In most cases, hiccups are more of an annoyance rather than a serious medical condition.

Hiccups are due to involuntary contractions of the diaphragm, which is the muscle that separates your chest and abdominal cavities.

The diaphragm plays a significant role in breathing.

The characteristic “hiccup” sound is caused by the sudden closure of your vocal cords, which follows each contraction of the diaphragm. The most common causes of hiccups are overeating and drinking carbonated or alcoholic beverages.

Sudden changes in temperature and emotional stress have also been linked to hiccups.

Generally, a bout of hiccups only lasts a few minutes, however, in rare cases, hiccups can last months.

It is important to consult your physician if your hiccups last more than 48 hours.

Nerve damage or irritation is the most common cause of chronic hiccups.
The two nerves that serve the diaphragm muscle are the vagus and phrenic nerves.

Conditions such as laryngitis or acid reflux may cause irritation of these nerves.

In rare cases, a tumor, cyst or goiter in your neck may put pressure on the nerves.

If chronic hiccups are left untreated it can lead to speech, eating and sleeping problems. During the physical examination, your doctor will most likely perform a neurological exam, which includes checking your reflexes, muscle tone, muscle strength, balance and coordination.

In addition, if your doctor suspects a more serious underlying condition he or she may recommend more sophisticated lab testing.  

In this case, you may need to give blood and urine samples. Your doctor may also suggest other imaging tests such as CT scans and MRIs to better visualize anatomical abnormalities.  

As stated earlier, most hiccups subside without medical treatment.

In the case of an underlying condition, your doctor will focus on treating the condition that is causing your hiccups.

In some cases, your doctor will prescribe medications to help treat chronic hiccups.

If conservative treatments fail to be successful, your doctor may recommend a nerve block injection.

This involves injecting an anesthetic to block your phrenic nerve to stop the hiccups.  

Before you call your doctor’s office there are a few home remedies that you can try to relieve your hiccups.

Holding your breath, breathing into a paper bag and sipping cold water may help to relieve your symptoms.

Other alternative therapies such as hypnosis and acupuncture have also shown to be helpful in some cases. Until next month, drive safely. 


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