Concerns & Causes of Severe Hiccups

Hiccups, also known as singultus and hiccoughs, are involuntary and random spasms of the diaphragm, which results in the closing of the vocal cords, according to Healthline and WebMD. Hiccups can be irritating and embarrassing but usually last a few minutes to a few days. In rare occasions hiccups last a few weeks to years. Prolonged hiccups that last more than a few hours are severe. Hiccups can also be a symptom of something serious.


The actual cause of severe hiccups is unknown. Some doctors and scientists have speculated, but nothing is certain. According to Emedicine, "Hippocrates and Celsus associated hiccups with liver inflammation and other conditions. Galen believed hiccups were due to violent emotions arousing the stomach. Modern science has a few theories regarding what causes hiccups, such as: gastric distention related to food or alcohol, changes in gastric or ambient temperature, excessive alcohol or tobacco use, stress or excitement. Most often hiccups are random and the cause is unknown. If hiccups are severe and persistent they may be symptoms of a more serious condition.


According to WebMD, hiccups can be a symptom of pleurisy. Pleurisy is the inflammation of lung and chest tissue. This tissue is called the pleura. Causes of pleurisy include: lower respiratory infections, air leaking from a hole in the lung, chest injury, broken ribs, tuberculosis, a tumor in the pleura or other infections. Pleurisy usually only lasts a couple weeks at the most, depending on the cause. Symptoms of Pleurisy, besides hiccups, include: chest pain and difficulty breathing.


According to WebMD, hiccups can be a symptom of pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas. Causes of pancreatitis include: excessive alcohol consumption, gallstones, metabolic disorders, surgery and medication side effects. Pancreatitis is a serious condition that requires diagnosis, consultation and treatment by a physician. Symptoms of pancreatitis other than hiccups include: upper abdominal and back pain, swollen abdomen, tender abdomen, nausea, vomiting, fever and increased heart rate.

Other Serious Conditions

Serious but common conditions such as pneumonia and hepatitis can cause hiccups. Liver cancer or brain tumors can also cause hiccups. According to Emedicine, there have been rare instances of severe hiccups where the cause was unknown but the result was death.