A hiccup is a sudden, involuntary contraction (spasm) of the diaphragm muscle. Hiccups happen when the diaphragm and respiratory organs experience a sudden, involuntary spasm.
This spasm is usually followed by the closure of the glottis (the slit-like opening between the vocal cords and larynx) and when the muscle spasms, the vocal cords snap shut, producing the hiccup sound.
Hiccups happens to everyone and most of the time are harmless, but prolonged or persistent hiccups may be a sign of a major medical problem.
Hiccups can be caused by the following: eating too quickly, eating or drinking too much, diseases that irritate the nerves that control the diaphragm, abdominal surgery, strokes, brain tumors, noxious fumes, sudden excitement and certain medications.
Smokers and people who consume large amounts of alcohol suffer hiccups a lot. This is because anything that causes your stomach to become distended causes hiccup and Smokers are prone because they are constantly swallowing air. Drinking alcohol can induce hiccups because it irritates the esophagus and may result in a flare-up of acid reflux.
Acid reflux disease is a common culprit behind hiccups, and amazingly, ear infections may cause them as well. When the tempanic membrane(the membrane in the ear that vibrates in response to sound waves) becomes irritated this can result in hiccups and this is a very common cause for hiccups that don’t subside.
Persistent hiccups are hiccups that last more than 48 hours but less than 30 days while intractable hiccups are classified as hiccups that last more than 30 days.
According to Texas A&M Health Science, persistent or intractable hiccups can indicate the following:
Cancer: This is because intractable hiccups are mostly seen in patients diagnosed with cancers of the brain, lymph nodes or stomach cancer.
Nerve Damage: Since hiccups convulse the muscles that control the diaphragm, patients who experience persistent or intractable hiccups can suffer nerve damage in the nerve that controls these muscles.
Tumor in the Neck or Goiter:Persistent or intractable hiccup may also be a pointer to a tumor in the neck or goiter.
Heart Muscle Damage or a Heart Attack:hiccups that refuse to subside may be a symptoms of heart muscle damage or a heart attack. Persistent or intractable hiccups can indicate inflammation around the heart or a pending heart attack.
Stroke: hiccups could also indicate stroke. Although It is still unclear why many of these incidences occur.
Hiccups in newborns, infants, and babies are actually common and nothing to be worried about but if it worsens or seem to upset the new born, contact your pediatrician.
You can get rid of normal hiccups by holding your breath, drinking a glass of water quickly, pulling hard on your tongue, biting on a lemon, gargling with water or using smelling salts.
But if it persists longer or lasts more than two days talk to your doctor.