Your browser does not support javascript:   Search for gard hereSearch for news-and-events here.

Diseases

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Print friendly version

Chronic hiccups


Other Names for this Disease

  • Chronic hiccough
  • Chronic hiccup
  • Hiccups, intractable
  • Intractable hiccups
  • Intractable singultus
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.

Overview

What are chronic hiccups?

What causes chronic hiccups?

How are chronic hiccups diagnosed?

How might chronic hiccups be treated?

What is the long-term outlook for people with chronic hiccups?

What are chronic hiccups?

Chronic hiccups are unintentional movements (spasms) of the diaphragm followed by rapid closure of the vocal cords that persist for an extended period of time. Hiccups often develop for no apparent reason and typically go away on their own after a couple minutes. However, chronic hiccups last over two days and in rare cases, may continue for over a month. Hiccups that recur over long periods of time are also considered "chronic." Depending on how long the hiccups last, affected people may become exhausted, dehydrated and/or lose weight due to interruptions in sleep and normal eating patterns. Other complications may include irregular heart beat and gastroesophageal reflux.[1] The exact underlying cause is often unknown; some cases may be caused by surgery, certain medications and/or a variety of health problems such as central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) abnormalities, psychological problems, conditions that irritate the diaphragm, and metabolic diseases. Treatment of chronic hiccups varies but may include medications and/or surgery.[2]
Last updated: 12/23/2014

What causes chronic hiccups?

Although the exact underlying cause of chronic hiccups is often unknown, many factors can contribute to the development of hiccups. For example, common triggers for hiccups include hot or spicy foods and liquids; harmful fumes; surgery; and/or certain medications.[3] Chronic hiccups can also be associated with a variety of health problems including:[1][2]
  • Pneumonia, pleurisy and other conditions that irritate the diaphragm
  • Brain abnormalities (i.e. strokes, tumors, injuries, infections)
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Gastrointestinal (esophagus, stomach, small/large intestines) diseases
  • Psychological problems such as hysteria, shock, fear, and personality disorders
  • Liver abnormalities
  • Kidney disorders

For a comprehensive listings of factors that can cause chronic hiccups, please click here.
Last updated: 12/23/2014

How are chronic hiccups diagnosed?

A diagnosis of chronic hiccups is usually obvious based on symptoms. However, a complete physical exam with various laboratory tests and imaging studies (i.e. chest X-ray, CT scan, MRI scan, and/or fluoroscopy of the diaphragm) may be performed to determine the underlying cause.[1][2]

For more information about the workup and diagnosis of chronic hiccups, please click here.
Last updated: 12/24/2014

How might chronic hiccups be treated?

Treatment for chronic hiccups often varies based on the underlying cause. In many cases, medications can be prescribed to treat chronic hiccups. These may include:[1][2]
Rarely, medications may not be effective in the treatment of chronic hiccups. In these cases, surgery to temporarily or permanently block the phrenic nerve may be performed. The phrenic nerve controls the diaphragm.[2]
Last updated: 12/24/2014

What is the long-term outlook for people with chronic hiccups?

The long-term outlook (prognosis) for people with chronic hiccups depends on the cause. Chronic hiccups are often associated with underlying medical conditions that vary in severity.[2] 

Depending on how long the hiccups last, affected people may experience the following complications regardless of the underlying cause:[1][2]
Last updated: 12/24/2014

References
  1. Hiccups, Chronic. NORD. April 2008; http://www.rarediseases.org/rare-disease-information/rare-diseases/byID/708/viewAbstract.
  2. Garry Wilkes, MBBS, FACEM. Hiccups. Medscape Reference. November 2014; http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/775746-overview.
  3. Hiccups. MedlinePlus. January 2013; http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003068.htm.


Other Names for this Disease
  • Chronic hiccough
  • Chronic hiccup
  • Hiccups, intractable
  • Intractable hiccups
  • Intractable singultus
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.