Medical conditions that cause hiccups

Written by chris sherwood
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Medical conditions that cause hiccups

Hiccups are a phenomenon that occurs when your diaphragm has an unintentional contraction. The force of the contraction closes your vocal cords and creates the common sound of the hiccup. Hiccups can occur for a variety of reasons, including temperature changes and food and drink intake; however, they also can be caused by underlying medical problems.

Nerve Damage

A common medical cause of hiccups involves nerve damage, especially on your phrenic or vagus nerves. Both nerves control the actions and movement of your diaphragm muscles. Damage or irritation to these nerves can cause your diaphragm muscles to involuntarily contract. In some cases this can lead to persistent chronic hiccups.

Metabolic Disorder

Metabolic disorders may also be a medical cause of hiccups. Most commonly hiccups become symptoms of either hypocapnia or uremia. Hypocapnia occurs when you do not have adequate amounts of carbon dioxide in your blood. Uremia occurs when your kidneys either become overwhelmed with too many toxins or no longer work well enough to filter out toxins from your body.

Central Nervous System

Central nervous system (CNS) disorders may also cause hiccups. When damage occurs to major parts of the CNS it can debilitate your body's ability to control the hiccup process. This can occur either from direct trauma or from interference by objects such as cancerous tumours.


Anxiety that has reached levels where medical intervention is necessary may also cause hiccups. Anxiety can affect the release of chemicals and hormones in the body. This can eventually affect parts of your nervous system, including the nerves associated with your diaphragm. The disruption can cause a case of chronic hiccups.

Surgical Complications

Complications from medical procedures, especially surgery, can also cause hiccups. This is usually caused by the anaesthesia administered prior or during the procedure. The anaesthesia affects the nervous system, which can in turn result in uncontrollable hiccups until the anaesthesia effects have had a chance to wear off.

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