Chronic cough and throat irritation can disrupt your daily life. Breaking the cycles that cause these conditions requires care from voice specialists who are experienced in diagnosing and treating their root causes. Duke’s laryngologists and speech-language pathologists work together to discover what’s causing your chronic cough or throat irritation and to improve your symptoms.
About Chronic Cough and Throat Irritation
Coughing is a natural response that helps protect your airway when you are sick or when food or liquid goes down the wrong way. However, coughing frequently when you are not sick, especially if the cough is dry and non-productive, may indicate a chronic cough. This can be caused by a dry or irritated throat, certain medications, medical conditions (such as acid reflux or allergies), or hypersensitivity in the throat after an acute upper respiratory infection like a common cold. Coughing (and throat clearing) irritates the delicate tissues of the voice box and can cause more coughing or throat clearing. Once the body is in a chronic cough pattern, it is difficult to break the cycle.
Throat Irritation (Chronic Throat Clearing, Pain, Tightness, and/or Hypersensitivity)
Throat irritation -- including frequent throat clearing, pain, tightness, or a sense that there is a constant lump in your throat -- can also occur when the throat is “stuck” in a pattern of hypersensitivity. It can be caused by coughing, vocal injury, or muscle tension. Sometimes, throat irritation can cause near-constant throat clearing, coughing, hoarseness, or painful swallowing, and it can disrupt daily life.
Throat irritation can also occur when the throat is “stuck” in a pattern of hypersensitivity. It can be caused by coughing, vocal injury, or muscle tension. Sometimes, throat irritation can cause near-constant throat clearing, coughing, hoarseness, or painful swallowing, and it can disrupt daily life.
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Our team will take a detailed history of your symptoms to note patterns or triggers. A laryngologist -- an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor with advanced training in voice and throat disorders -- will also evaluate whether any medical conditions, surgeries, or recent illnesses may have caused changes in your voice or throat. We will perform a head and neck examination and a visual examination of your voice box. The following test may also be necessary.
This detailed visual exam helps us evaluate how your vocal cords vibrate when you speak or sing. A tiny camera attached to a small tube called an endoscope is inserted through your nose and into your throat. It allows us to see your vocal cords and larynx (voice box). A flashing strobe light simulates slow-motion video images of your vocal cords. The exam takes about two minutes, and your nose can be sprayed with topical anesthetic for comfort.
Your team will look for lesions, stiffness, paralysis, irregular movements, throat strain, or incomplete closure of the vocal cords. After the exam, your team will review the images with you to discuss your diagnosis and treatment plan. Videolaryngostroboscopy is essential to reaching an accurate diagnosis and determining the best treatment.
Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why we are once again recognized as the best hospital in North Carolina, and nationally ranked in 11 adult and 9 pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report for 2021–2022.
Why Choose Duke
A Team of Experts
At Duke, one of the few comprehensive voice centers in the Southeast, your care team will include laryngologists and speech-language pathologists specially trained to evaluate and treat people with voice problems and laryngeal disorders. Our team has years of experience treating chronic cough and throat irritation problems.
Team Care Approach
If you have other medical conditions that may contribute to your voice issues -- such as allergies, asthma, or acid reflux -- we will work with your other providers throughout Duke Health to ensure you receive the best care from an integrated team.