Strange Medical Case: Hiccups Reveal Bigger Health Issue
The hiccups can be frustrating, especially when you try all of the “usual” cures – like holding your breath or having someone scare you – and they still won’t disappear. Sometimes, people have the hiccups for more than two days, called intractable hiccups. If that isn’t annoying enough, one 35-year-old man in New York was experiencing them for an entire month. He visited the doctor, receiving medications to help alleviate his hiccups as no other issues could be found, but they just kept returning. Finally, he had a third episode, which brought him to the emergency room due to hiccupping and vomiting for five days. He also had some tingling and numbness in his left arm, but thought nothing of it as he had a prior injury that could easily explain the symptom.
However, when he came to the hospital, some other symptoms began to worsen. His legs became weak and were tingling and numb, and he was having problems walking, swallowing and maintaining balance. The doctors then decided to do a more in-depth look where they found the man had a tumor growing in the back of his neck that had been pressing on the phrenic nerve, which is the neural pathway to the diaphragm, disrupting the signals to the muscle and causing the incessant hiccups.
The other symptoms that came about were also caused by the tumor as it began pressing on the major section of nerve roots along his spinal cord. Thankfully, the surgeons were able to remove the tumor in its entirety and after a few days of physical and occupational therapy, the man was able to return home and has no signs of the tumor returning.
While hiccups may be common, having intractable hiccups is more concerning, usually indicating there may be some underlying issue causing them, even in a completely healthy person. Thankfully, this is a rare finding, so no need to panic when you have a case of the hiccups!