8 Things Your Hiccups Are Trying to Say About Your Health
They’re not just annoying—hiccups can also be warning signs of other problems.
What causes hiccups?
Hiccups, which occur when the diaphragm and respiratory organs encounter an abrupt, involuntary spasm, happen to everyone on occasion. “Anything that causes your stomach to become distended can cause hiccups,” says Timothy Pfanner, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine. Usually, a bout of hiccups lasts for a brief period and then goes away on its own. However, Dr. Pfanner warns that when hiccups are longer lasting or out of the ordinary from what you typically experience, more serious health issues might be at hand.
You have acid reflux disease
Telltale signs of acid reflux disease include heartburn, the regurgitation of a bitter-tasting acid, and nausea. Interestingly, hiccups that don’t let up are also a symptom of GERD. If they persist, check with your doctor to see if you have acid reflux disease, which can be disruptive to your lifestyle and of course, your stomach and esophageal health.
You’re really stressed out
Hiccups may be warning you that you need to take some time out for yourself. The Mayo Clinic lists emotional stress as one of the many causes of hiccups, so if you’ve been noticing hiccups accompanying your elevated stress levels, consider taking steps to restore your inner peace such as meditation, exercise, or finally taking your company up on that well-deserved vacation time. Check out these other things you never knew about hiccups.
Hiccups could be a sign of cancer
Hiccups could indicate the presence of some types of cancers, including those in the brain, stomach, or lymph nodes. Compared to persistent hiccups, which last anywhere from 48 hours to less than 30 days, Pfanner notes that intractable hiccups—hiccups lasting more than 30 days—have been associated with the aforementioned cancers in some patients. Hiccups lasting this long usually indicate that something more serious is occurring internally. But breathe a sigh of relief: experts note that it’s extremely rare for hiccups to be a sign of cancer.
Hiccups could be a pneumonia clue
According to the Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, long-lasting hiccups could be an indication of pneumonia. While you’ll likely experience other pneumonia symptoms such as chest pain, chills, fever, and perhaps shortness of breath, hiccups too, have been documented as a possible sign of this lung infection. Your doctor will likely give you a chest X-ray to determine if you do indeed have pneumonia. Make sure you know these 9 easy tricks to get rid of hiccups fast.
Hiccups could indicate you have an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system
One of the symptoms of neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD)—sometimes mistaken for multiple sclerosis—are persistent hiccups. Episodes of vomiting, visual loss, and nausea are also symptoms of this inflammatory disease of the central nervous system which affects the brain, brain stem, optic nerves, and spinal cord. You need not jump to serious health conclusions with every new symptom you observe, but it doesn’t hurt to speak to a medical professional about your hiccups, especially if they’re in conjunction with these other NMOSD symptoms.
Hiccups could be part of early stroke symptoms
A national survey released by the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center determined that most women did not know that hiccups could be an indication of a stroke. Of the 1,000 women questioned, only a mere 10 percent were aware that in addition to typical stroke symptoms, hiccups coupled with atypical chest pain are an early warning sign of a stroke in women. In fact, the National Stroke Association lists hiccups along with nausea, confusion, and general weakness as some of the unique stroke symptoms that females may experience. Check out more surprising reasons you have the hiccups.
Hiccups could mean you’re having a heart attack
If you’ve had hiccups that haven’t gone away for a few days, you could be having a heart attack. Josh Davenport, MD, of St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City recalls the story of a 68-year-old man who was hiccupping for four days in a row. Complications related to his diabetes, smoking habit, and the possibility of cancer were ruled out. Davenport then ordered an electrocardiogram for the man, drawing on a former case in which there was a correlation between hiccups and a heart attack. The results indicated that the man was indeed having a heart attack even though he wasn’t exhibiting typical heart attack signs such as sweating, weakness, or chest pain. However, just as is the case with hiccups being a possible symptom of certain cancers, Davenport warns that hiccups as a heart attack sign are possible, but very rare.
Hiccups could mean that your kidney function is worsening
If you have chronic kidney disease and start having frequent hiccups, that could be an indication that your kidney is deteriorating even further. Hiccups, along with symptoms like bone pain, abnormal breath odor, and muscle twitching are a few signs of such worsening—transcending earlier symptoms of chronic kidney disease such as headaches, fatigue, and appetite loss. Since the kidneys are responsible for the removal of waste and excess water in the body, its ability to work effectively is essential. Hiccups in conjunction with these other symptoms could indicate that your kidney is in serious trouble; options such as dialysis may be necessary. Don’t miss these things you’ve always wondered about your other bodily functions.