Coughing is the body’s method to help clear particles and secretions from the airways to prevent infection. However, when a cough lingers it can be a frustrating and exhausting problem for patients. Chronic cough can cause muscle fatigue, dizziness, hoarseness, and sleep disturbance, to name a few symptoms. A chronic cough is defined as a cough that continues for more than 8 weeks and is not a disease in itself but rather a symptom of an underlying condition.
The most common causes of chronic cough are postnasal drip, asthma, and acid reflux from the stomach. Less common causes include respiratory infections like sinusitis and bronchitis. Certain medications can also cause a chronic cough. Although less common, lung cancer can cause coughing and should be considered especially if the patient has a significant smoking history.
The diagnosis of chronic cough is based on the clinical presentation of a cough that has persisted for more than 8 weeks. However, the history and physical exam should be focused on discerning the cause of the cough. Breathing tests may be ordered if asthma or chronic bronchitis is suspected. Providers may order a procedure that looks at the esophagus if they are suspicious of reflux. An X-ray or CT scan may be ordered to look for lung nodules or scarring.
The treatment of chronic cough should be directed at getting rid of the cause. Providers will often try one treatment at a time in an effort to discern the underlying cause. Our physician is an expert in finding the cause of a chronic cough and developing a specific treatment plan.