Hiccups or singaltus are repetitive, uncontrollable contractions of diaphragm paired with a “Hic” sound from vocal cords closing. Diaphragm is a muscle under ribcage, which separates chest and slowmech area. This muscle is an important part of the breathing process. It moves downward when you breathe in and moves upward when breathed out.
Hiccup is a set of two movements happening simultaneously –
• Your diaphragm pulls down between breaths, making you suck in air.
• The glottis (Space between the vocal cords) closes to stop more air coming in.
These action make the “Hic” sound. The process of the hiccup happens very quickly and you will usually return to normal within minutes to a couple of hours without treatment.
Hiccups can happen to anyone adults, children or babies. These are more common in men.
With each spasm, there’s usually a slight tightening of the chest or throat prior to making the distinctive hiccup sound.
Most cases of hiccups start and end abruptly, for no discernable reason. Episodes generally last only a few minutes.
Hiccups that last longer than 48 hours are considered persistent.
The most common triggers for hiccups that last less than 48 hours includes –
• Eating too much
• Drinking too much alcohol
• Excitement or emotional stress
• Drinking carbonated beverages
• Swallowing air with chewing gum or sucking on candy
• Sudden temperature changes
Hiccups that last more than 48 hours may be caused by a variety of factors, whose classification is as follows –
▪︎Nerve damage or invitation
A cause of long-term hiccups is damage to or irritation of the vagus nerves or phrenic nerves, which serve the diaphragm muscle. Factors that may cause damage or irritation to these nerves includes –
• Sore throat or laryngitis
• Gastroesophageal reflux
• A tumor, cyst or goiter in your neck.
• A hair or something else in your ear touching your eardrum.
▪︎Central nervous system disorders
• Traumatic brain injury
• Multiple Sclerosis
▪︎Metabolic disorders and drugs
• Kidney disease
• Electrolyte imbalance
Risk factors –
Men are more susceptible than women to suffer from hiccups. Other factors that may increase your risk of hiccups include –
• Mental or emotional issues
Anxiety, stress and excitement have been associated with some cases of short term and long term hiccups.
Some people develop hiccups after undergoing general anaesthesia or after procedures that involve abdominal organs.
Prolonged hiccups can lead to complications such as-
• Communication problem
• Delayed wound healing after surgery
• Weight loss and dehydration
In severe cases of hiccups –
• Cardiac arrhythmias
• Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Hiccups that last less than 48 hours donot usually need any medical attention, because they resolve on their own. If they persists for longer, a doctor’s help is required.
The doctor will probably ask some questions regarding your hiccups and perform physical as well as neurological exam to check the person’s –
• Sense of touch
• Muscle strength
• Muscle tone
If an underlying condition may be the cause, the following tests may be ordered –
• Blood test, to check for infection, kidney diseases or diabetes
• Imaging tests such as X-ray, CT scan or MRI scan
• Endoscopic test
• Electrocardiogram (ECG)
Most cases of hiccups go away on their own without medical treatment. The following treatments may be considered for hiccups that have lasted longer than two days.
Drugs that can be used to treat long-term hiccups includes –
Some muscle relaxants, sedatives, analgesics and even stimulants have also been reported to help alleviate hiccup symptoms.
▪︎Surgical and other procedures
If less invasive treatments aren’t effective, your doctor may recommend an injection of an anaesthetic to block your phrenic nerve to stop hiccups.
Hiccups cannot always be prevented.
• Avoid overeating
• Do not eat too quickly
• Do not drink alcohol or sodas too much
• Avoid sudden changes in temperature
Ayurvedic Perspective –
Hiccups can be compared to Hikka Roga in Ayurveda. According to Ayurvedic physiology vitiated Kapha obstructs the path of Vata, further cause pranvaha srotas, udakevaha srotas and annavaha srott dusthi and leads to Hikka.
• Breathe repeatedly into a paper bag.
• Drink a glass of cold water.
• Hold your breath.
• Eat a teaspoon of sugar.
• Local application of til taila or karpooradi tail to chest region.
• Nadisweda with dashmool kwath or lavan sweda is very effective.
• Cirabilvadi kasayam
• Vaisvanara curnam
• Dhanvantara gutika
• Hingwadi vati
• Sutshekhar Rasa
• Kamadugdha Rasa
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