Chronic Hiccups: Causes, Treatment, and Consequences

20 August, 2020
Chronic hiccups can influence every aspect of a person's life, including personal relationships and sleeping habits. We'll tell you more in this article.
 

We all know what hiccups are and we’ve all experienced them at one time or another. They consist of a series of involuntary contractions of the diaphragm. This causes the vocal cords to close, producing the characteristic, funny noise. However, chronic hiccups are anything but fun.

Chronic hiccups are a rare disease. In fact, experts estimate that only 1 in 100,000 inhabitants suffers from this condition, experiencing diaphragm contractions that repeat for periods of more than 48 hours.

Suffering from chronic hiccups can be a sign of another illness. Therefore, it can be difficult to treat without first eliminating the underlying cause. In the article below, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about this problem.

What are the causes of chronic hiccups?

As we’ve already mentioned, chronic hiccups are those that last for days or even weeks at a time. Patients alternate between periods where they experience hiccups and periods when they don’t. However, in most cases, hiccuping episodes occur several times in the same month.

This pathology tends to be the consequence of another illness located in the digestive tract. Frequently, it’s located in the esophagus and the stomach, which are the two organs that are most in contact with the diaphragm. In particular, experts believe esophagitis from gastroesophageal reflux to be one of the main triggers.

Esophagitis from gastroesophageal reflux is an illness involving injury to the esophagus. This injury is the result of acid from the stomach ascending and eroding the walls of the esophageal tube. There are many factors that influence gastroesophageal reflux, including food, tobacco, and hot foods.

While chronic hiccups can be the result of a number of different causes, men are more prone to this condition than women. It appears that stress and anxiety can also be triggering causes.

A woman with chronic hiccups
 Esophagitis from reflux is one of the main causes of chronic hiccups

You may also want to read: How to Calm Your Baby’s Hiccups

What other causes of chronic hiccups exist?

Since chronic hiccups consist of involuntary contractions of the diaphragm, it’s important to keep in mind that any nerve damage that affects this muscle can cause this condition. Firstly, it can result from a brain injury in the area that triggers the reflex.

The most frequent illness that damage involuntary motor nerves are meningitis and multiple sclerosis. Experts have also observed that chronic hiccups can be the symptom of a brain tumor or the after effects of a cerebrovascular accident or stroke.

Injury to the nerves that direct the impulses toward the diaphragm can also be the trigger. These nerves, called phrenic nerves, communicate the central nervous system with the abdominal muscle. Part of its trajectory is through the neck and thorax. Therefore, it’s important to rule out pathologies in this area.

Lastly, it’s important to point out that chronic hiccups can be the side effect of certain medications. In fact, they can also appear after anesthesia or surgical interventions. Alcoholics and those who are addicted to sedatives can also suffer from this condition.

Hands holding pills.
Hiccups can be the side effects of certain pharmaceuticals

Discover more: Flatulence Problems? Try These Home Remedies

Is there a way to treat chronic hiccups?

The treatment of this pathology is based on solving the underlying causes that produce it. In other words, if the cause is gastroesophageal reflux, then the most important step will be treating this illness. Therefore, doctors may recommend antacids in order to regulate stomach pH.

However, experts have also discovered benefits in certain medications that can be used to treat this condition itself. Chlorpromazine and metoclopramide are pharmaceuticals that treat chronic hiccups directly. The first is an antipsychotic drug, while the second is used to relieve nausea.

If none of the above work, doctors may consider resorting to surgical techniques in order to treat chronic hiccups. Surgery involves blocking the phrenic nerves in order to detail the nerve impulse that contracts the diaphragm.

The biggest problem with chronic hiccups

It’s important to remember that chronic hiccups are a very incapacitation problem. They affect every aspect of a person’s life, even making it difficult or impossible to sleep. Therefore, when it comes to treatment, it’s also important to provide psychological support.

We’re not talking about classic hiccups that last for a short time and then go away. Rather, people with chronic hiccups can experience episodes that last for days at a time. Therefore, they must adjust their lives to this condition and require the support and assistance of those around them.

 
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