Coughing may be uncomfortable and disruptive, but it serves an important purpose. Coughing brings up mucus and foreign material from the airways that would otherwise irritate your lungs. This is triggered frequently if you have an illness or inflammation. While most coughs are short-lived, sometimes they linger for weeks or months. It’s important to not ignore a chronic cough, as it can be a sign of something serious.
Causes of Chronic Cough
The most common causes of a chronic cough include:
- ACE inhibitors (used to treat high blood pressure)
- Acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Chronic bronchitis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Infections like pneumonia or acute bronchitis
Less common causes include:
- Bronchiectasis (damage to the airways that causes inflammation in the lungs)
- Bronchiolitis (infections/inflammation of air passages in lungs)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Heart failure
- Interstitial lung disease (scarring of lung tissue)
- Lung cancer
- Sarcoidosis (clusters of inflamed cells in the lungs)
- Whooping cough
Symptoms Accompanying Chronic Cough
Along with a chronic cough, you may also experience symptoms like heartburn, hoarse voice, runny nose, sore throat, stuffy nose, wheezing, shortness of breath, dizziness, chest soreness, headaches and sleep loss.
Serious symptoms are rare, but you should call a doctor right away if you cough up blood, have night sweats, are running a high fever, are short of breath, lose weight unintentionally or have persistent chest pain.
When to See a Doctor for Chronic Cough
In addition to the worrisome symptoms listed above, you should contact your doctor if your cough lasts longer than three weeks.
At your appointment, your doctor will ask about your cough and other symptoms, and will likely order tests which may include:
- Acid reflux tests: Used to measure the amount of acid in the fluid within your esophagus.
- Bronchoscopy: Uses a scope to view the lining of your lower airway and lungs. May be followed by a biopsy.
- Endoscopy: Uses a flexible, lighted instrument to examine the esophagus, stomach and small intestine.
- Sputum cultures: Used to check the coughed-up mucus for bacteria.
- Pulmonary function tests: Used to determine how much air you can breathe out and measure other lung functions.
- X-rays and CT scans: Used to identify signs of cancer or infections like pneumonia.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call ENT & Allergy Partners today.