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What are hiccups?

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Quick Answer

Hiccups are spontaneous contractions of the diaphragm followed by an abrupt closure of the vocal cords, explains Mayo Clinic. Hiccups typically last for a few minutes but can last for months in rare cases.

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Full Answer

The only sign of a hiccup is a “hic” sound, and a slight tightening sensation of the throat, abdomen or chest is a symptom of a hiccup, states Mayo Clinic. A doctor should be consulted if hiccups last more than 48 hours or cause issues with breathing, eating or sleeping. Carbonated beverages, overeating, excitement, alcohol overconsumption and swallowing air are common causes of hiccups. Nerve damage or irritation, central nervous system disorders, medications and metabolic disorders cause hiccups that last more than 48 hours. Mental or emotional issues or surgery can increase the risk of long-term hiccups.

A neurological exam to test reflexes, muscle strength, balance, coordination and sensory capabilities diagnoses the cause of hiccups, according to Mayo Clinic. Laboratory, imaging and endoscopic tests determine if an underlying medical condition is causing hiccups. Hiccups typically go away on their own and do not require medical treatment. Medications such as chlorpromazine, baclofen and metoclopramide typically treat long-term hiccups, and anesthetic injections or a surgically implanted device designed to stimulate the vagus nerve may be used if medication is ineffective.

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