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"What causes the hiccups?"

ZocdocAnswersWhat causes the hiccups?

Question

I seem to get the hiccups a lot. What causes them? I'm 20 and female. Is it a health problem if I get them like every other day?

Answer

Hiccups are a type of muscle spasm that occurs in the diaphragm. The diaphragm is the muscle that you use to expand your lungs when you take a breath. The muscle spasm of the diaphragm causes it to suddenly contract which induces a sudden rush of air into your lungs. Thus rush of air produces a sound which we refer to as the hiccup. Hiccups can also be caused by irritation to the phrenic nerve. The phrenic nerve is the nerve that your brain uses to send signals to the diaphragm which in turn causes it to contract. Irritation of this nerve can cause it to fire a signal to the diaphragm without the brain's permission. This is another reason why hiccups pare not under our voluntary control. Most of the time, the exact cause of this muscle spasm is unknown. Sometimes if we inhale some food or water, this can irritated the lung tissue and cause hiccups. Abnormal tissue in the lungs causing compression of the phrenic nerve can also be a culprit. In a young female such as yourself, causes such as lung cancer are very unlikely. Since you are having repeated bouts of these hiccups, you should schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. At the very most, your doctor may want to get a chest x-ray to make sure something obviously wrong isn't missed. If the hiccups really bother you, there are medications that can help calm them down.

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