Why Do You Get Hiccups?

Hiccups do occur whenever an individual’ air intake channel is temporarily blocked. It could also happen without any reason. It’s nothing serious, though having hiccups for longer than necessary could be indicative of some medical issues.

Whenever someone experiences hiccups, it’s due to an abrupt, reflex diaphragm contraction occurring simultaneously with your larynx or voice box contraction as well as the glottis closing completely. This normally brings about air suddenly rushing into the lung, resulting in the common “hic” sound.

The center of the larynx is called the glottis. The vocal cords are hosted in this place.

The medical name for Hiccups is called singultus or synchronous diaphragmatic flutter (SDF). They do occur in bouts or individually. They are normally mostly rhythmic, which means that the time between hiccups is approximately the same.

Many people experience hiccups occasionally, and they normally resolve it without any treatments in a matter of minutes.

In a few occasions, there are chronic or prolonged hiccups that can last up to a month or even longer. Those hiccups that stay more than 2 months are called intractable hiccups.

If any bout lasts more than 48hrs, then it can be regarded as persistent and that individual should visit a doctor. It may be indicative of a somewhat severe medical case. This appears to be more in men than it is in women.

The longest hiccups case has stayed for 60 years.

Facts about hiccups

  • The precise reason behind hiccups is still not known, but persistent chronic hiccups occur due to medical challenges, which includes gastrointestinal issues and stroke.
  • A lot of cases stop without treatment, though prolonged hiccups have the capacity to result to other complications like depression and insomnia.
  • If anyone experiences hiccups for more than 48hrs, the person should consult a doctor. He may ask you to take a muscle relaxant.
  • Staying away from alcohol and eating slowly can aid in reducing your chances of getting hiccups.

Causes

National Organization for Rare Disease views hiccups as a non-deliberate spasmodic contraction on the muscle around the lungs’ base (diaphragm) which is followed by the vocal cords closing up.

So many conditions can be responsible for persistent or chronic hiccups.

The exact reason why short hiccup bouts happen is not known actually, but a couple of factors seem to increase your chances of having it.

Lifestyle factors

These could trigger hiccups:

  • Spicy or hot food which unsettles the phrenic nerves, just close to the esophagus.
  • Stomach gas that presses on the diaphragm.
  • Consuming too much food or resulting in stomach distention
  • Drinking hot liquids, alcoholic drinks, or sodas, particularly carbonated drinks.
  • Having strong emotions or stress.

Some medications like methyldopa, barbiturates, corticosteroids, anesthesia, benzodiazepines, and opiates are known culprits for causing hiccups. 

Medical conditions

Most times hiccups do happen when you least expect, which makes it difficult for patients or doctors to know their true cause.

Nevertheless, so many medical conditions are responsible for chronic hiccups.

These are:

  • Gastrointestinal conditions, which include inflammatory bowel disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, or small bowel obstruction.
  • Respiratory conditions like asthma, pneumonia, or diaphragm pleurisy.
  • Habitual and excessive alcohol consumption
  • Central nervous system related disorder which includes encephalitis, brain tumor, brain injury, or stroke.
  • Conditions which unsettle the vagus nerves like pharyngitis or meningitis, or goitre.
  • Psychological reactions, which include excitement, grief, stress, anxiety, shock or hysterical behavior.
  • Metabolism negating conditions like diabetes, hypoglycemia, or hyperglycemia.
  • Kidney and liver problems.
  • Cancer resulting from damages courtesy specific conditions or caused by treatment side effects like chemotherapy
  • Autonomic nervous system’ conditions that equally affects sweating, breathing, hiccups, heartbeat as well as coughing.

Some other conditions include liver cancer, bladder irritation, hepatitis, and pregnancy. Tumors, surgery as well as lesions equally pose as risk factors.

Treatment

Many hiccup cases stop in a matter of minutes or even hours without any medical intervention. If they however, persist, consult your doctor.

Some tips could help although their effectiveness can be highly questionable.

Tips to make your hiccups go away

The steps below could be helpful in stopping your hiccups:

  • Sip your ice water gently or use cold water for gargling.
  • Stop breathing for some time and breathe out. Repeat the process for up to 4 times, while you do it for every 20 minute interval.
  • In the course of swallowing, apply small pressure on your nose.
  • Apply little pressure to your diaphragm.
  • Bite a lemon.
  • Take in a little of granulated sugar.
  • Collect small quantity of vinegar.
  • Inhale and exhale inside a paper bag, though not plastic bags and don’t allow the bag to cover your head.
  • Sit down while hugging your knees close to the chest for a little amount of time.
  • Have your chest compressed a little by leaning forward.
  • Other therapies are hypnosis and acupuncture.
  • Carefully pull on your tongue.
  • Rub your eyeballs.
  • Place your finger inside your throat for activating a gag reflex.

A good number of all these tips were passed down from older generations. While they could be effective, there is really very little studies to support them.

Medications

If someone is struggling with a health condition in the process, addressing that condition could bring an end to the hiccups.

When prolonged hiccups is interfering with someone’s life, the health professional may suggest a drug.

These medications can be of great help should there be no particular health condition:

  • baclofen (Lioresal)
  • Gabapentin, a drug for handling neuropathic pain; it helps to reduce hiccups symptoms greatly

If the above prescriptions don’t work for you, then you could try these:

  • Haloperidol or chlorpromazine, an antipsychotic medication for reducing hiccups. 
  • Metoclopramide is a drug for anti-nausea which helps some persons with their hiccups.

Ketamine or ephedrine can also treat hiccups that is linked with surgery or anesthesia.

The doctors normally prescribes a two-week medication. They could increase the dose till the hiccups stop.

The course as well as dosage will hinge on how serious the hiccups is, the general health of the patient, and also their age.

Surgery

In serious cases that haven’t responded to some other treatments, a surgeon could inject medication in the phrenic nerves to obstruct the action of the nerve temporarily, or disrupt the neck’ phrenic nerve.

Complications

Prolonged hiccups could cause complications like:

  • Dehydration and weight loss: When the hiccups last long and happen at brief intervals, it could become extremely hard to eat well.
  • Insomnia: If the prolonged type of hiccups happen during sleep hours, then sleeping will be difficult to achieve.
  • Fatigue: long-term hiccups are exhausting, particularly when they stop the individual from eating or sleeping.
  • Communication problems: they make it difficult for the individual to talk.
  • Depression: Prolonged hiccups could lead to clinical depression.
  • Delayed wound healing: chronic hiccups could obstruct healing process for post-surgical wound, which increases the risks or bleeding or infections after surgery.

Other complications comprise irregular heartbeats as well as gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD).

Diagnosis

Any hiccup that can stay for less than 48hrs doesn’t need any medical intervention, since they can stop like that.

If they, however continue for longer periods, consulting a doctor will be necessary.

The doctor might want to know when the hiccups started, how many times they happen, how regular they are, if they happen every time, and what someone was doing prior to starting.

They will likely carry out a normal physical examination as well a neurological exam for checking the individual’:

  • balance
  • reflexes
  • coordination
  • sense of touch
  • eyesight
  • muscle tone
  • muscle strength

If any underlying condition is responsible for the hiccups, these tests could be ordered:

  • Various blood tests for verifying any diabetes, kidney disease or infections.
  • Imaging tests like x-ray, MRI scan or CT for assessing anatomical disorders which could be disrupting the vagus or phrenic nerves or diaphragm.
  • Endoscopic test whereby an endoscope will be passed down the throat of the patient for checking the esophagus or windpipe.
  • An electrocardiogram for checking heart-related disorders by measuring electrical pulses inside the heart.

Prevention

Some hiccups causes can be prevented.

Ways to reduce the risk are:

  • avoid sudden temperature changes
  • avoid drinking neither alcohol nor sodas
  • eating modestly and slowly

Most hiccups are just for a while and do stop after then. However, if your hiccups continue or you suspect any other symptoms, try seeing a doctor.

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