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Can Hiccups Be an MS Symptom?

Posted on April 11, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Evelyn O. Berman, M.D.
Article written by
Sarah Winfrey

In multiple sclerosis (MS), some common symptoms include fatigue, muscle weakness, problems walking, and muscle spasms. However, people with MS sometimes experience less common symptoms, like hiccups. Hiccups can take a number of different forms, and people with MS may experience them in different ways.

Prolonged or recurrent hiccups can be annoying. Worse, they can interfere with sleep, eating, speech, and even wound healing. Here’s what you need to know if you’re having hiccups and wondering if they are related to your MS.

How People Experience Hiccups With MS

Many MyMSTeam members have experienced hiccups they associate with their MS.

For some people, hiccups are a regular irritation. One member wrote, “I’ve had hiccups six times today, and it’s so annoying.” Another shared, “Does anyone have hiccups every day? I’ve had hiccups every day since at least middle school.” “Hiccups have become regular for me … every single day,” another added.

Hiccups associated with MS may last for a long time. “Does anyone here experience frequent hiccups that last a long time?” asked one member. “All night last night, my hiccups were lasting longer than usual.” Another replied, “I often get hiccups that last hours — multiple times a day.”

Occasionally, hiccups may last even longer than that. “Does anyone get hiccups through MS? I’ve had them for two days solid now,” one member lamented. Hiccups that last longer than one month are known as intractable hiccups.

For some people, hiccups with MS only come under certain circumstances. “I’ve had hiccups every time I eat since late March,” one member explained.

Hiccups can be more than just annoying, especially when they happen at a bad time or won’t go away. “Does anybody wake up at night with the hiccups?” a member asked. Another said, “I need the stupid hiccups to go away so I can go to sleep! Grrr!”

Hiccups can be a disruptive and uncomfortable symptom of MS. If you’re experiencing them, talk to your health care provider right away. Recurrent or prolonged hiccups may mean your MS is not well-controlled or that you’ve developed another health condition. Finding a solution for your hiccups can improve your overall well-being and quality of life.

What Causes Hiccups in People Diagnosed With MS?

Someone diagnosed with MS might experience hiccups for many reasons. MS lesions in certain locations in the central nervous system may cause hiccups. Also, many people with MS experience muscle spasms, also called spasticity. A hiccup is essentially a spastic contraction of the diaphragm, a dome-shaped muscle just beneath the lungs and heart.

Hiccups may be a gastrointestinal reflex that the body usually suppresses. Some researchers suggest that MS lesions make it harder for the body to suppress hiccups in certain situations, making them more common in people with MS than in others.

Certain steroids used to treat MS flares, such as methylprednisolone (Solu-Medrol) and dexamethasone, can also cause hiccups.

Other Causes of Hiccups

Hiccups happen to everybody. Common triggers of normal hiccups include:

  • Carbonated drinks
  • Excess alcohol
  • Excitement or stress
  • Overeating

Some health conditions and situations are also known to increase the risk for prolonged hiccups (lasting longer than 48 hours). These can include:

  • Diabetes
  • Gastroesophageal reflux (acid reflux)
  • Eardrum or throat irritation
  • Recovery from surgery or anesthesia
  • A tumor
  • A traumatic brain injury or brain infection

Neuromyelitis Optica

Neuromyelitis optica, also called Devic’s disease or NMO, can resemble MS. NMO is more likely to cause hiccups compared with MS. In rare cases, it can occur in addition to MS.

NMO is primarily characterized by vision problems caused by demyelination. The condition can also cause symptoms like numbness and tingling, sharp back or abdomen pains, trouble breathing, and bladder and bowel problems.

Since many of these symptoms can overlap with MS, getting an accurate diagnosis is essential. A health care professional can pinpoint the cause of your unusual hiccups.

How To Manage Hiccups Associated With MS

There are a number of ways to manage hiccups associated with MS.

If you are experiencing persistent hiccups, it may mean that you are about to experience a relapse of MS or that your symptoms are not effectively under control. It’s important to follow up with your neurologist to find a treatment that works for you.

A physical therapist or occupational therapist may be able to help you control your hiccups or find ways to work around them and stay comfortable when you’re dealing with them.

Try Home Remedies for Hiccups

Home remedies may help you manage your hiccups as well. There is not much concrete evidence that any of these remedies work better than others, so you might need to try a few to find out what works best for your body.

MyMSTeam members share the remedies that work for them. “Try eating a teaspoon of peanut butter,” recommended one member. “It works … I don’t know how.” Another member recommended, “Get two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, mix it with water, and slam it down.”

Other possible remedies include drinking water, holding your breath, gargling water, swallowing sugar, and more. While doing these things may feel silly, you may find one that helps end your hiccups.

Identify Hiccup Triggers and Avoid Them

If you get hiccups after you eat, try experimenting with different diets to see what works best. Some people find that certain foods are less likely to trigger hiccups than others. You may need to eat a bland diet or avoid certain foods — especially those high in acidity — if they are more likely to bring on hiccups.

Some people find that changing the way they eat helps get rid of hiccups. They may need to slow down their eating, eat less food at each sitting, or avoid carbonated beverages or alcohol.

Change Positions

Some people find that different body postures make hiccups worse. For instance, sitting might worsen hiccups, while standing and moving eases them. Others find that they need to sleep with their head elevated to reduce their chances of having hiccups at night. Take some time to experiment and determine what works best for you.

Find Your MS Team

On MyMSTeam, the social support network for people living with multiple sclerosis, more than 184,000 members come together. You can read about others’ experiences, ask questions, and share tips about what has helped you in your journey with MS.

Do you deal with prolonged or recurrent bouts of hiccups while living with MS? How do they affect you, and what have you found that works to stop them? Share your story or tips in the comments below or by posting on MyMSTeam.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Evelyn O. Berman, M.D. is a neurology and pediatric specialist and treats disorders of the brain in children. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about her here.
Sarah Winfrey is a writer at MyHealthTeam. Learn more about her here.

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