What are hiccups?

Hiccups are muscle spasms in your diaphragm that push air past your vocal cords faster than normal, causing them to tighten in response. The result is often a distinct sound, or a “hiccup.”

The diaphragm is a muscle at the base of your chest that helps you inhale. Muscle spasms in the diaphragm can occur for a number of reasons, including recent surgery, an irritation of the phrenic nerve (the nerve that controls the diaphragm), eating or drinking unusual foods or fluids, inhaling smoke or fumes, or having some types of disease or brain injury. Chronic hiccups commonly afflict people with advanced cancer.

Hiccups are a universal phenomenon – most everyone has experienced hiccups. Though hiccups usually go away on their own, a variety of home remedies have been suggested to shorten their duration. You can try relaxing, swallowing a teaspoon of sugar, sipping ice water, and breathing deeply and purposefully.

Hiccups can be annoying, and if they continue for an extended period, they can become quite uncomfortable. In the majority of cases, hiccups are not of great concern. However, if your hiccups continue for hours or days, or if they occur more and more frequently, then you should contact your health care provider to see if a less common or more serious cause is possible.

Seek prompt medical care if you have hiccups that do not resolve after a few hours, are very painful, make it difficult to breathe, or if you notice that you are having hiccups very often for a reason that is not known.


What are the symptoms of hiccups?

Symptoms of hiccups include a sudden contraction of your belly and chest and a “hiccup” sound. A hiccup can feel like a cross between a burp and a sneeze. It is possible to have hiccups that do not make any sound or hiccups that you can hear but do not feel.

Common symptoms of hiccups

You may experience hiccup symptoms daily or only occasionally. Symptoms include:
... Read more about hiccupssymptoms


What causes hiccups?

Hiccups are caused by a spasm in the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a muscle between your lower ribs and back that helps you breathe. At times, it can contract quickly, forcing a quick exhalation of air from the lungs. As the air rushes past your vocal cords, they contract, causing a distinct “hiccup” sound.

There are a variety of reasons why hiccups may occur. In some cases, the cau... Read more about hiccupscauses


How are hiccups treated?

There is no cure for hiccups, though there are many anecdotal treatments and cures. In nearly all cases, hiccups disappear and require no treatment. In the case of hiccups caused by another condition, such as a lung infection irritating the phrenic nerve (the nerve that controls the diaphragm), treatment of the underlying condition may prevent the hiccups from continuing.

When hic... Read more about hiccupstreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Bones, Joints and Muscles

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