Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Is coughing always a sign of illness?"
Does it always mean you're sick if you have a cough? I've had a dry cough on and off for a long time, and I'm just not convinced that this means I'm actually ill. Couldn't it be possible that I just have sensitive lungs and I live in a place with bad air quality?
Cough can have many different causes and the specialists involved in diagnosing and treating a cough can include a general practitioner, internist, pulmonologist, ENT and others. Generally we cough in order to clear our airways of foreign objects. The urge to cough is from irritation that can either occur chemically or physically. The majority of times that people can cough can be caused by infectious processes such as viruses and bacteria. Other things that can cause cough include chemical irritants such as pollutions, aerosols and even perfumes. Drugs can also cause cough by releasing chemicals in our body that make our lung airways constrict and cause an urge to cough. Gastric esophageal reflux and post nasal drip are also common causes of cough. More serious causes of cough includes cardiac etiologies. Sometimes people with heart failure can have fluid accumulate in the lungs and cause what we call a cardiac cough. Malignancy, although not that common can also present with cough. While a pulmonologist and ENT specialist can help diagnose the causes of a cough it is important to be evaluated by your primary care provider initially. A careful physical exam and history can often times diagnose the cause.
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