Consultant Gastroenterologist, Inverclyde Royal Hospital, Greenock, UK Senior Lecturer in Medicine, Glasgow University, Scotland, UK
What are hiccups?
A hiccup is a sound produced by repeated involuntary contractions of the muscles of the diaphragm, followed by rapid closure of the vocal cords, producing the hic sound.
What causes hiccups?
Mild hiccups are a reaction to hot and spicy foods or too much alcohol. They may be caused by psychological or organic causes. Disease conditions that affect the kidney, chest, abdomen or heart can cause hiccups. The diaphragm may contract by stimulation either by impulses from the brain or by irritation anywhere along the vagus nerve. The vagus sends a signal to the phrenic nerve that sends the nerve impulse to the diaphragm. The diaphragm then goes into a sharp contraction causing the hiccup.
Stress and excitement too can instigate hiccups.
What evaluation needs to be done in case of persistent hiccups?
A detailed medical history and physical examination may be done which should
include the following:
Time pattern: what is the frequency of hiccups and for how long has the
problem been present.
Aggravating factors: what has been consumed that may have increased the
Relieving factors: How is the person relieved. Does he take any home
Does his hiccup stop for a while and then restart?
What are the other symptoms present?
Other diagnostic tests such
as blood tests, CT scan or MRI may be done in case an underlying disease or
disorder is suspected.
What is the treatment?
Hiccups are usually self-limiting and do not require any treatment. There are
certain hiccup cures that work. One teaspoon of ordinary table sugar, swallowed
dry, may cure hiccups immediately. Repeating the method 3 times at 2-minute
intervals helps in case the hiccups do not stop at once.
Holding the tongue with the thumb and index finger and gently pulling it