Harvard Men's Health Watch

Concern about recurring hiccups

Ask the doctor

Q. I have hiccups on a regular basis, and sometimes they last a long time. Should I be worried?

A. Hiccups, known by the medical term singultus, rarely signal an underlying serious condition. A hiccup comes from a strong, involuntary contraction in the diaphragm, which is the muscle below your lungs. Many everyday situations can trigger this spasm, including distention of the stomach (which can be the result of overeating), swallowing air, or drinking carbonated beverages.

Once the gastrointestinal stimulus declines, the hiccups usually stop. If hiccups last longer than 48 hours, they are classified as "persistent," and certain medical problems should be considered. For example, your doctor might do a procedure called endoscopy to check inside the esophagus and stomach for signs of acid reflux or cancer.

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