Constant or chronic cough is cough that lasts for at least 8 weeks or longer. It is physically draining and interferes with one's sleep and performance at work or in school. The person suffering from constant cough may end up angry, irritated, anxious and frustrated. This particular problem drives many patients to see their doctor.
Clinical Characteristics of Constant Cough
Even though majority of patients emphasize constant cough as the leading problem many of them complain about additional symptoms and signs. For example, the person may suffer from runny nose, have breathing difficulties (shortness of breath, wheezing etc.) and heartburn. The cough may be dry or productive and in rare occasions a person may even cough up blood.
Causes of Constant Coughing
There is a variety of medical conditions that can cause constant coughing. Most of them affect the respiratory tract but constant cough may also be associated with certain conditions of the gastrointestinal tract or develop as a side effect of some medications.
Respiratory tract infections are the main cause of constant coughing. Problems may develop due to cold, flu, pneumonia and many other infections of the respiratory tract. Chronic bronchitis is one of the frequent causes of chronic cough. The problem also affects people suffering from brinchiectasis, a chronic lung condition in which some bronchial tubes become too wide and more susceptible to mucus accumulation and frequent infections. Constant coughing is also typical for postnasal drip. In people suffering from postnasal drip excessive production of mucus leads to irritation of certain receptors and this triggers the cough reflex. Patients suffering from chronic postnasal drip commonly suffer from constant cough. And finally, asthma is another respiratory tract illness commonly connected with constant cough.
Furthermore, in people who have to deal with regurgitation of stomach acid (gastroesophageal reflux disease) there is irritation of the throat. Such irritation is accompanied by cough. The problem becomes even worse if stomach acid reaches the airway. Constant coughing may also be a side effect of certain medications. For example, some ACE inhibitors, drugs prescribed to patients suffering from hypertension, may be responsible for constant cough. And finally, constant cough is one of the signs of lung cancer.
Treatment for Constant Coughing
All people who are suffering from cough that lasts for a longer period of time should visit their doctor as soon as possible. Depending on the underlying cause the doctor will prescribe medications or suggest other treatment modality.
Allergies and postnasal drip are treated with nasal decongestants and antihistamines. Patients suffering from asthma may be prescribed with several medications from different groups. It is essential to pay attention to patients suffering from GERD and prescribe them with drugs that reduce the production of stomach acid and in this way prevent further damage to the esophagus, throat and airways. And finally, treatment for lung cancer is complex and generally depends on many factors.