The Problem Behind Intractable Hiccups

Neurologists from Loyola University Medical Center have found that some people suffer intractable hiccups that last for more than a month.

Intractable hiccups might be more common than what was previously thought.

Chief neurology resident, Dr. Stasia Rouse and Neurology department assistant professor, Dr. Matthew Wodziak wrote in the journal, “Intractable hiccups can occur more often than we realize and present to multiple medical disciplines.”

Hiccups normally takes place between 4 and 60 times per minute. Acute hiccups start with no specific reason and disappears after a few minutes.
Persistent hiccups, which last longer than two days, and intractable hiccups, which last for more than a month, are widely associated with underlying medical conditions, such as metabolic disorders and diseases affecting the diaphragm.

They can disrupt a person while eating, sleeping, socializing, and remarkably harm the quality of life.

Each year, around 4,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized due to hiccups. 91% of patients who suffer intractable hiccups are men who are mostly over age 50.

Drinking carbonated drinks or consuming a large meal are among the common causes of hiccups. Other triggers can include anxiety or stress, alcohol intake, consumption of spices, smoking, and certain drugs.

Intractable hiccups normally have underlying causes. For instance, in one patient, hiccups were linked to arthritis in the sternoclavicular joint that connect the collar bone to the breast bone. In another patient, hiccups were connected to pulmonary embolisms or blood clots in the lungs.

According to Dr. Rouse and Dr. Wodziak, hiccups can be treated with a variety medications, including baclofen, metoclopramide, gabapentin, haloperidol and chlorpromazine.

Hypnosis, acupuncture and swallowing granulated sugar are other reported remedies for intractable hiccups.

The authors stated that hiccup treatments cross different areas of medicine, such as primary care, neurology, gastroenterology and pulmonology.

Unfortunately, there are no formal or established guidelines for treating intractable hiccups.

Many treatments are simply based on a physician’s personal experience or anecdotal evidence.

“There is a lack of good quality evidence to recommend specific treatment for hiccups,” stated Drs. Rouse and Wodziak.

The authors reported their findings in the journal Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports.

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