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"
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 doctor.
The treatment for persistent or intractable hiccups depends on the
underlying cause of the hiccups and may range from medicine to acupuncture or
hypnosis. Sometimes several treatments may be tried before persistent or
intractable hiccups are controlled.
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
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