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 caused by any number of factors that irritate the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a sheet of muscle that separates the abdominal cavity from the chest cavity. Its main function is to help the lungs draw in air during breathing.
Phrenic Nerve and Diaphragm
Phrenic Nerve
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of getting hiccups include:
  • Drinking a lot of fluids, including alcohol
  • Gastrointestinal conditions, including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Dehydration
  • Stress or intense emotions
  • Some medications
  • Medical procedures, such as mechanical ventilation and intubation
  • Certain conditions that irritate the brain or nerves, such as goiter, meningitis, multiple sclerosis, or cancer

Symptoms

Hiccups may cause:
  • 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 2 days
  • Are painful or get in the way of your daily life, such as eating or sleeping

Diagnosis

You will be asked 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. Your body fluids may be tested. This can be done with blood tests. Images may be taken of your abdomen and chest. This can be done with:

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