Chronic coughs are coughs that last for longer than eight weeks. If the chronic cough occurs in someone who smokes, it is called chronic bronchitis, and can be successfully treated by smoking cessation.
Cause of a Chronic Cough
Causes of a chronic cough in people who don’t smoke can include asthma, nasal allergies and sinusitis, post-nasal discharge, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD.) It is important to determine the cause of a chronic cough, to rule out serious illness and also to find a successful treatment. An ENT doctor, like Dr. Michael Burnett, a leading New York ENT specialist, can frequently help patients find the correct diagnosis and treatment.
Symptoms of Chronic Cough
A chronic cough may be a wet cough or a dry cough, and the phlegm can be either thick or thin, and may have a color, but these characteristics are not as helpful to determine the diagnosis as the triggers that seem to cause the cough. People with a chronic cough may have disturbed sleep and a reduced quality of life.
Diagnosis of Chronic Cough
Sometimes, a doctor will treat the most likely cause of a chronic cough for weeks or months, and if it doesn’t resolve, a primary care doctor usually begins another trial of treatment. Many times, it’s necessary to consult a specialist, like a top ENT doctor, in order to figure out the cause of the cough.
Diagnosis of causes like rhinitis or sinusitis are suspected when a patient is chronically clearing their throat and coughing, and if the symptoms are not adequate to confirm the diagnosis of sinusitis, an ENT doctor will obtain a CT scan of the sinuses. Other types of chronic cough are caused by airway inflammation, including asthma and eosinophilic bronchitis. Spirometry tests will help make these diagnoses, and sometimes sputum tests may be useful to look for inflammatory cells in the airway passages. Other patients may have a high cough reflex sensitivity. These are all things that can be determined by an ENT specialist.
Dr. Michael Burnett, one of New York’s leading ENT doctors, also sees many patients with a chronic cough that results from gastro-esophageal reflux disease, even though these patients do not have evidence of heartburn symptoms. In most cases, when your doctor suspects GERD is the cause of your chronic cough, your diagnosis will be confirmed if you respond to a trial of a medication known as a proton pump inhibitor, which stops the production of gastric acid. Dr. Michael Burnett sometimes treats patients who have a chronic idiopathic cough that results from a highly sensitive cough reflex, which is measured in a diagnostic test in our office.
Treatment for Chronic Cough
After the cause of your chronic cough is determined, Dr. Michael Burnett can recommend effective management and treatment. If you have abnormal reflexes in your airway, or heightened airway inflammation, then there are medications for asthma or eosinophilic bronchitis, including inhaled steroids. Patients with asthma are usually treated with medications to relax the airway constriction. Patient with a high cough reflex sensitivity can be treated successfully with antihistamines, and those patients who have sinusitis or allergies have a variety of complementary treatment options. Dr. Michael Burnett may recommend a proton pump inhibitor if your chronic cough appears to be caused by gastro-esophageal reflux disease.
If your life is disrupted by a chronic cough, and you have been unable to find relief, then you should call today for a consultation with the top New York ENT doctor, Dr. Michael Burnett. Our staff is standing by to schedule your appointment at 212-867-4813.