Understanding And Treating Your Chronic Cough
A cough can start small and quickly take over your life, interrupting you throughout the day as your body is consumed by a coughing fit. Sadly, chronic cough can interfere with life events, causing people to shy away from opportunities, like giving a speech at a wedding, because they’re afraid of having to cough halfway through.
There are several different sources of chronic coughs, which could be leaving you breathless and exhausted. At Lyracore Health Alliance, we work with patients from all walks of life to learn why they are coughing and then decide the best way to treat them. Your cough doesn’t have to be a big part of your life! Learn more about the top sources of chronic cough and how to treat it.
What is chronic cough?
There are multiple different types of coughs that you might experience. An acute cough is one that lasts between one to three weeks. If you develop a head cold, you may experience an acute cough while your body fights off the illness. Similarly, a subacute cough can last up to eight weeks before it fades away.
A chronic cough, however, is persistent: it lasts longer than eight weeks and becomes part of your daily life. You will notice the presence of your cough on most days, with no sign of it improving. Dr. Alexandre Furman and his team at Lyracore work with patients who experience chronic coughs to diagnose and treat these symptoms.
Types of Chronic Cough
If you live with a chronic cough, Dr. Furman will try to identify the source of the issue. There are two different types of chronic cough which can affect your day-to-day life. A symptomatic cough is caused by underlying diseases. It will likely clear up once the disease is diagnosed and treated. In this case, the cough is a symptom of a lung-related condition.
A refractory cough persists despite treatment. The cough still isn’t controlled even after multiple interventions. Not only does Dr. Furman help patients determine where the cough is coming from, but he’ll also identify the best way to reduce your chronic cough so you feel more comfortable.
Causes of Chronic Cough
Chronic cough is a symptom of many lung diseases but can also develop from some non-lung-related conditions. This is why diagnosing the cause of your cough can be challenging. Some common causes of chronic cough include:
- Lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, or pulmonary fibrosis.
- Allergies, post-nasal drip, and sinus problems
- Digestive issues (such as gastroesophageal reflux or GERD)
- Side effects from some medications
- Smoking tobacco and other combustible inhaled products
You might meet with Dr. Furman with concerns about your lungs because of a chronic cough, only to learn a digestive issue or seemingly unrelated medication is causing this symptom.
Oftentimes, when the cause of the cough has been identified, it can be successfully treated; however, there are times when a chronic cough persists. Living with a chronic cough can be frustrating and even embarrassing if the cough interrupts your daily life. This is why our team at Lyracore is committed to helping patients treat and better understand their chronic cough.
How do we approach chronic cough?
If you experience chronic cough, Dr. Furman will take steps to learn about your symptoms, medical history, and other potential factors that could be causing this discomfort. He will also conduct a physical exam and might run some tests to get to the root cause of the issue. Here is what the diagnosis process will look like.
Step One: Getting to Know You
The first time you meet with Dr. Furman, he will ask you a series of questions to learn about your cough. He wants to know what the cough is like and what might be triggering it. The more details you provide, the better. A few common questions he will ask include:
- When did your cough start?
- Does your cough bring up mucus?
- If there is mucus, what’s the consistency and color? Is there any blood?
- Are there any specific triggers for your cough? (weather, air quality, meal times, bedtime, exposure to a particular environment, etc.)
- Have you been in close contact with anyone who has similar symptoms or a known respiratory infection such as the common cold, tuberculosis, pneumonia, or whooping cough?
- Do you have any medical illnesses or chronic diseases?
- Do you have trouble swallowing?
- Do you have trouble with indigestion or heartburn?
- Have you been started on any new medications recently?
- Have you had any changes in your home environment (new carpeting, heating or air conditioning system, new pets, etc.)?
- Do you have any allergies, sinus or nasal congestion, or experience post-nasal drip?
- What do you do for a living? What’s your workplace like? (dusty, damp, cold, etc.)
- What do you do in your time off? Have you recently traveled?
- Do you use tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or e-cigarettes) or marijuana?
- Do you use recreational drugs?
These questions are meant to help Dr. Furman understand what might be causing your cough. For example, if you just started a new job, a chemical used in the office could be triggering the cough, or the addition of a new pet could be creating allergy symptoms.
Step Two: Physical Exam
Using the information provided through the answers to his questions, Dr. Furman will perform a physical exam and may run a few tests to learn about your lung health. These might range from checking vital signs like blood pressure and temperature to specific tests like listening to your lungs or requesting a CT scan. A few tests you may need to complete include:
- Chest X-ray: this creates a clear view of your lungs to identify potential issues.
- Blood sample: this will determine if your body is fighting an infection or if there are signs of allergies or inflammation.
- CT Scan: this is an in-depth, high-resolution picture of the chest or lungs.
- Throat swab
- Phlegm or sputum sample
- Pulmonary Function Testing: this is a test where you breathe in and out hard and fast into a small plastic device. It measures how well you breathe and how much oxygen is absorbed by your lungs.
- Echocardiogram: this is a sonogram of the heart.
After these basic tests are complete, Dr. Furman may need to request a few highly-specialized tests to make sure they are confident in their diagnosis. He will walk you through these tests and what they entail.
Step Three: Diagnosis and Treatment
With the right information, Dr. Furman will be able to better understand the condition of your lungs and the potential source of your chronic cough. Diagnosis of chronic cough can be both confirming and frustrating. It is a relief to know the cause; however, it doesn’t always mean the cough itself will disappear.
When Dr. Furman has a diagnosis, he will walk you through your treatment options. His goal is to find the most effective treatment possible while also finding care options that work for you.
Treatment for Chronic Cough
Your treatment options will depend on the cause of your cough. Once Dr. Furman understands why you are coughing, they can take steps to reduce your symptoms.
If your cough is the result of a specific medical condition such as asthma, COPD, pulmonary fibrosis, sinus drainage issues, nasal polyps, or gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), Dr. Furman will recommend specific treatments to manage or eliminate your cough.
Even if the cough does not respond to treatment, Dr. Furman will continue to help manage your symptoms and search for better solutions. Having a chronic condition may be frustrating at times, but support is only a click away. There are several online communities you can turn to for help. A few resources include:
The American Lung Association
Better Breathers Club
The Better Breathers Club provides resources to cope with lung disease and support from other patients who share your experience. These in-person support groups can give you the tools you need to live the best quality of life you can.
You may qualify to participate in a clinical trial, a regulated research study in which people volunteer to test new treatments or therapies. It is important to consider all treatment options when living with lung disease.
You Don’t Have to Fight a Chronic Cough Alone
A chronic cough can affect every element of your life, from your ability to work to your familiar relationships. Our team at Lyracore understands how frustrating it can be to live with a chronic cough, and we are dedicated to accurately and efficiently diagnosing and treating the underlying cause of your symptoms.
If you have developed a cough of any kind that has lasted longer than eight weeks, it’s time to schedule an evaluation with Dr. Furman and his team. Make an in-person appointment or request a telemedicine call today.