What Causes Continuous Hiccups?

Hiccups are involuntary contractions of the diaphragm muscle, followed by a sudden closure of the vocal cords, which produces the classic “hic” sound. They are usually harmless and brief, lasting for a few minutes to an hour. However, continuous or chronic hiccups, which persist for more than 48 hours, can be more concerning and may have an underlying cause. Some potential causes of continuous hiccups include:

  • Nerve Irritation or Damage: Conditions that irritate or damage the phrenic nerves or diaphragm can lead to persistent hiccups. These conditions might include:
    • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): Stomach acid irritation can affect the diaphragm.
    • Stroke: Brainstem damage can disrupt the hiccup reflex.
    • Brain or central nervous system tumors: Pressure on the brainstem can affect the hiccup reflex.
  • Stimulants and Medications: Certain medications or stimulants can cause hiccups as a side effect. These might include steroids, anesthetics, chemotherapy drugs, or some psychiatric medications.
  • Gastric Distention: Overeating or consuming carbonated beverages can lead to stomach distention, which can irritate the diaphragm and cause hiccups.
  • Temperature Changes: Extreme changes in temperature, such as eating or drinking something very hot or very cold, can trigger hiccups.
  • Emotional Factors: Emotional stress, excitement, or anxiety can lead to hiccups in some individuals.
  • Excessive Alcohol Consumption: Consuming excessive alcohol, especially in a short period, can lead to hiccups.
  • Respiratory Tract Infections: Conditions affecting the respiratory tract, like pneumonia, bronchitis, or asthma, can irritate the diaphragm and lead to persistent hiccups.
  • Swallowing Air: Swallowing air, whether due to eating too quickly, chewing gum, or other habits, can cause gas buildup in the stomach and lead to hiccups.
  • Tumors and Lesions: Abnormal growths in the chest or abdomen can press on the diaphragm or nerves, causing hiccups.
  • Metabolic Disorders: Some metabolic conditions, such as diabetes, uremia (kidney failure), and electrolyte imbalances, may lead to hiccups.

If you experience continuous or chronic hiccups, it’s important to consult a healthcare provider. They can perform a thorough evaluation to identify the underlying cause and determine the appropriate treatment. Treatment may involve addressing the root cause, such as managing GERD, treating an infection, or adjusting medications. In some cases, medications or medical procedures may be necessary to stop the hiccups.