Hiccups

Hiccups occur when a spasm contracts the diaphragm, causing an intake of breath that is suddenly stopped by the closure of the vocal cords (glottis). The closure of the vocal cords causes the characteristic "hiccup" sound.

Hiccups are also called hiccough and singultus.

A very full stomach (gastric distention) can cause bouts of hiccups. While annoying and at times embarrassing, most bouts of hiccups go away on their own and do not require any treatment.

Persistent hiccups last longer than 48 hours. Hiccups that last longer than a month are called intractable hiccups. Both persistent and intractable hiccups may be a sign of a more serious health problem and require evaluation by a health professional.

The treatment for persistent or intractable hiccups depends on the underlying cause of the hiccups and may range from medication to acupuncture or hypnosis. Sometimes several treatments may be tried before persistent or intractable hiccups are controlled.

Last Updated: December 11, 2009

Author: Jeannette Curtis

Medical Review: Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Martin Gabica, MD - Family Medicine

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