Hiccups lasting longer than 48 hours are defined as chronic hiccups.
Chronic hiccups are a rare medical occurrence that can interrupt daily life and cause health problems. Sleeping and eating adjustments are often needed to cope with the condition.
The cause is not always apparent, but chronic hiccups are often related to an underlying medical issue.
In this article, we look at what could cause chronic hiccups, along with steps that can be taken to treat them.
A hiccup is caused by an uncontrolled spasm of the diaphragm, followed by the vocal cords closing quickly and making a distinctive sound.
There is no clear cause of hiccups, but excitement, stress, or consuming specific food or drinks, such as fizzy soda, may trigger them.
Hiccups usually go away within a few minutes, but occasionally they may affect someone for hours. Hiccups lasting longer than 48 hours are classed as chronic and considered a serious medical condition.
In addition to being incredibly irritating, chronic hiccups often disrupt sleep and can make it difficult to eat or drink. They can sometimes have serious consequences, such as exhaustion, dehydration, and weight loss.
Although chronic hiccups have no clear cause, medication or a health condition could be to blame. While chronic hiccups are easy to diagnose, finding a possible underlying cause can take much longer and may not always be possible.
The nerve that controls breathing may be damaged or irritated. Pressure could also have been placed on a nerve elsewhere in the body due to a change in the body, such as pregnancy or a tumor growing.
The part of the brain that controls unconscious actions, such as breathing, can stop working properly, perhaps after a stroke or head injury. Diseases affecting the central nervous system, such as multiple sclerosis, could have the same effect.
Chronic hiccuping may be a symptom of a gastrointestinal disease, which affects the stomach, gullet, large and small intestine, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. Some examples include:
There have been some reports of people developing chronic hiccups after undergoing brain surgery and gastrointestinal procedures, such as gastroscopy. These reports suggest that medical interventions on parts of the body associated with hiccups could trigger the condition.
Some medications are linked to chronic hiccups. These include drugs used in combination, such as chemotherapy and corticosteroids, which are used to treat some conditions, including severe allergies and skin diseases.
As chronic hiccups are rare, there has been limited research into effective treatment and care.
Medication is usually effective in treating chronic hiccups, but further investigation into the underlying cause is necessary to determine how to prevent the hiccups from returning.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved chlorpromazine to treat chronic hiccups. Tranquilizers, muscle relaxants, and sedatives can also be used to disrupt the spasm creating the hiccup.
Sometimes, medication may not work, and surgery on the nerve that controls diaphragm movement may be necessary.