What causes a hiccup?


Everyone, from babies to adults, experiences hiccups occasionally. Hiccups can be annoying, but they go away after a while. However, hiccups can be quite uncomfortable when they do not stop soon. If you have recurring or persistent hiccups, it hinders your ability to enjoy your life. Chronic hiccups or persistent hiccups last for more. In this article, I will be discussing hiccups in details, what causes it and how to get rid of hiccups.

What are hiccups?

Hiccups are some weird sounds that escape from your mouth with no warning. They occur because of spasms of the diaphragm that happen involuntarily. The diaphragm is located between the lungs and the stomach. Doctors think hiccups start way lower than in your chest. The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle that is pulled down or contracted when you inhale to allow more air into your lungs. The diaphragm and the intercostal muscles contract and relax, allowing you to breathe. It increases the volume of your lungs and decreases pulmonary pressure.  When you exhale, the diaphragm relaxes and returns to its old dome-shaped structure. The volume is decreased as the diaphragm is back in position and the pulmonary pressure is decreased. Hence, the air is pushed out of your body through your mouth and nose.

Why do hiccups occur?

Hiccups occur due to irritation of your diaphragm. If your diaphragm is irritated, it spasms and increases the volume of your lungs. The increased volume decreases the pulmonary pressure and suddenly forces air into your lungs. Because of the sudden diaphragm spasm, you are forced to inhale through your throat. The air reaches your voice box or larynx, making the hic sound commonly accompanied by hiccups. The hic sound occurs when your vocal cords close suddenly due to a diaphragm spasm. The epiglottis, or the flap over the windpipe, prevents food from entering the windpipe. It protects you when you are swallowing. When you suddenly inhale from the spasms in your diaphragm, the epiglottis flaps shut sharply, resulting in the characteristic hic sound of hiccups.
Usually, hiccups go away on their own after a few minutes. However, if you have been suffering from hiccups for several days or weeks, it is indicative of some other underlying disease.

What triggers hiccups?

Involuntary muscle spasms of your diaphragm cause hiccups. The diaphragm plays a significant role in breathing. It contracts and relaxes rhythmically, which changes the pulmonary pressure inside the lungs. The difference between pulmonary pressure and the pressure outside our body leads to air rushing in or out of our lungs through our nostrils and mouth. Our nerves control our diaphragms. Due to certain triggers, the nerves are stimulated, leading to involuntary spasms of the diaphragm. Doctors and scientists don't know the exact reason why this occurs yet.
The triggers that lead to hiccups are also somewhat of a mystery. Most of the triggers are unknown. The triggers that put pressure on the diaphragm occasionally cause hiccups in people. The triggers could be anything, such as:
●    Eating highly spicy or hot food
●    Drinking fizzy drinks like cold drinks or alcohol.
●    If you are smelling a bad odor,
●    If you are suffering from indigestion,
●    If you eat your food too quickly,
●    Pregnancy causes more frequent hiccups.
●    Excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages.
●    Overwhelming stress
●    People who smoke regularly are affected by hiccups more often than non-smokers.

Underlying health conditions that cause prolonged hiccups

Sometimes, hiccups refuse to go away on their own and last for several days, weeks, or, in some rare cases, even years. This is unusual and is indicative of an underlying disease. Certain lung disorders or brain abnormalities affect the diaphragm, which causes it to spasm involuntarily. Certain surgeries or medications cause frequent hiccups. For example:
•    Chest or abdominal surgery can cause frequent hiccups.
•    Taking medications for epilepsy and chewing on nicotine gum regularly leads to prolonged hiccups.
•    Damage to the brain area that controls the diaphragm's nerves cause frequent and prolonged hiccups.

How to get rid of hiccups all by yourself?

In most of the cases, hiccups mostly go away by themselves after a few minutes. However, if you are highly uncomfortable due to hiccups and they don't seem to stop, you can try some of the following remedies for hiccups.
●    Holding your breath for as long as you can helps to get rid of hiccups.
●    Conversely, taking deep breaths allows your hiccups to go away.
●    Sitting down and bending you forward over your knee helps with hiccups.
●    Gargling and eating ice cubes are helpful if you want to get rid of hiccups.
●    Drinking water slowly till your hiccups go away is a great solution.
●    Ask a friend to scare you suddenly. It stops your hiccups.
●    Eat a tablespoon full of sugar, or take a small bite of fresh ginger.
●    Suck on a piece of lemon
●    Drink honey or hot water slowly


Hiccup treatment

You must go to a doctor if you have prolonged hiccups. The doctor will identify the underlying health condition and start the treatment process to relieve from hiccups. They can prescribe some anti-spasmodic tablets, offering you instant relief from hiccups. Doctors offer surgery to split some nerves that control the diaphragm, which causes it to spasm suddenly. If you are experiencing prolonged hiccups due to certain medications or nicotine, you can ask your doctor to change the dosages or suggest an alternative to nicotine therapy for addiction. In serious cases, a tube is put in the nose to stop hiccups, or a nerve block is administered.

Conclusion

Hiccups are common and occur due to involuntary spasms of the diaphragm. You can follow certain remedies mentioned above to get rid of them at home. However, prolonged hiccups are a cause for concern and should be reported to your doctor.

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