A hiccup presents itself when there is a disruption of your diaphragm. The diaphragm is a muscle that separates chest and abdominal organs. It is key to helping you breathe properly. Usually, your diaphragm contracts when you inhale and relaxes when you exhale. Thus, hiccups are inappropriate respiratory muscle contractions that occur due to gastrointestinal, general systemic disorders, neurologic, respiratory as well as a sequel to surgery or an adverse reaction to drugs. Hiccups normally last for a few minutes. If they are especially painful or remain for hours to days, it could be a sign of a more concerning underlying condition.
Hiccups can be a precursor of a heart attack or stroke.
Hiccupsoccur when the diaphragm contracts. It causes an intake of breath that is interrupted swiftly by the closure of vocal cords, which gives a characteristic hiccup sound. In simple words, anything that irritates the diaphragm can give hiccups. They usually stop within a few minutes and may last for a few hours.
Causes of Hiccups: The main cause is a full stomach that can cause bouts of hiccups. Others include:
1.Eating too much food too quickly.
2.Drinking too much alcohol.
3.Swallowing too much air.
5.A sudden change in stomach temperature, example when drinking a hot beverage and then a cold beverage.
6.Emotional stress or excitement.
Persistent Hiccups: Hiccups, which last longer than 48 hours are referred to as persistent hiccups.
Intractable Hiccups: Hiccups that last longer than a month are known as intractable hiccups. These are very rare and can cause exhaustion, lack of sleep, along with weight loss.
Persistent and intractable hiccups suggest a more serious health problem, which requires immediate medical consultation.
The causes of Persistent and Intractable Hiccups are:
1.Central nervous system problems including cancer, infection, injury and stroke.
2.Cardiac arrest/Heart attack (due to vagus nerve supply).
3.Decreased kidney function.
4.Irritation of the nerves in the chest (vagus or phrenic nerve), head and neck.
5.Anesthesia or Surgery.
6.Mental health problems.
According to the researchers at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, severe hiccups that appear all of a sudden and cause pain are a sign of stroke. There needs to be a check for other symptoms like chest pain as well as numbness all over the body. It should be kept in mind that other signs are left out when hiccups take over. The researchers also suggested that when a person with hiccups, tingling and numbness enters the clinic, he or she should be given anticoagulant medications. These medications could help in clot prevention, which in turn can lead to a stroke.
Further, this research was conducted based on a study of 1,000 women in which they were asked if they knew that severe hiccups are a sign of stroke. Only 10 percent of them responded in a positive way, whereas the remaining 90% did not have the knowledge that hiccups were a sign of a stroke.
To conclude, persistent and intractable hiccups are signs of an impending stroke or a heart attack, especially when they are associated with other symptoms. When they are associated with chest pain, heart attack is highly possible. When they are associated with weakness in the extremities or tingling or numbness or slurring of speech or other signs of stroke, immediate care should be taken.