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  #1  
Old 02-11-2009, 07:07 PM
Libre Libre is offline
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Chronic chest congestion & throat clearing - it's driving me crazy!

Ok, here's the deal. I have been to my doctor about this health issue and I don't seem to be getting anywhere with it. When I go to walk-in clinics to see a different doctor, they tell me to go see my family doctor about this kind of chronic issue.

I'm a 38 year old Canadian male and in reasonably good health.

Since January 1st of last year (2008), I have experienced a chronic congestion in my upper chest that requires me to clear my throat and cough to relieve the congestion. Once I've cleared my throat, it takes about 15-30 seconds until I have the urge to clear or cough again. Since it's been an ongoing problem for over a year now; by definition this is chronic bronchitis.

The mucous is clear, for the most part, except sometimes in the mornings it is a little thicker and occasionally cream-coloured.

Occasionally, there are longer periods between the chest clearings, but I can't find a pattern in terms of what might cause the differences (humidity, diet, stress, etc), except I have noticed that it generally tends to be worse toward the evening. Interestingly, when I lay down in bed at night, after about 20 minutes I can often go for minutes at a time without any chest clearing.

Along with these symptoms, I experience chronic post-nasal drip which I suspect may be the source of my chest congestion. My doctor tells me I don't have a deviated septum or nasal polyps, and the Fluticasone nasal spray I was prescribed had no effect on my PND.

I have tried many different allergy medications, which don't stop the drip.

I have tried several acid-reflux medications, which haven't changed the symptoms of chronic bronchitis.

I have had two sets of chest x-rays that have showed that have been unremarkable, a normal spirometer and my pulmonary functioning test was well within normal range. I am a non-smoker and have never worked in an environment with any known dangerous airborne particles. I have been told by a respiratory and pulmonary specialist that I do not have COPD.

I have seen my doctor about eight times about this issue. He's always very patient, but essentially the explanation I get is that some people clear their throats more than others. What's even more frustrating is that on most occasions when I've seen him, I've only needed to clear my throat/chest a couple of times during our appointment!! ARrrrgh!

My question is: If you're a medical professional - is there anything in your experience that hasn't been covered here - any direction that I might be able to research and bring up with my doctor?

All I can come up with on my own is that maybe I have some kind of virus that's here to stay. While my life isn't being threatened, my quality of life has certainly been diminished.

All caveats, etc. well understood. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

~ Libre
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  #2  
Old 02-11-2009, 07:11 PM
Libre Libre is offline
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The SDMB Google Ads are showing "Asthma Cure", which reminds me that I have had two different types of bronchodilator inhalers which have done nothing for me. I don't have any shortness of breath, so I'm pretty sure asthma is out of the question.
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  #3  
Old 02-11-2009, 11:22 PM
LouisB LouisB is offline
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Not a medical professional but I had a very similar condition that stopped when I quit smoking.
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  #4  
Old 02-12-2009, 12:40 AM
PopeJewish PopeJewish is offline
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IANAD but I had a sorta similar case

for a few months I could barely sit up without coughing (coming off playing soccer for 14 years this was a concern to me). I went to several doctors who all prescribed me anti-biotics which didn't do a damn thing. Finally one doc said it might be seasonal asthma (mind you I'm from california, we don't have seasons) and he prescribed me steroids for a week. After that I was completely fine
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  #5  
Old 02-12-2009, 01:12 AM
Carson O'Genic Carson O'Genic is offline
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You make no mention of diet, have you considered this aspect.
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  #6  
Old 02-12-2009, 01:33 AM
Libre Libre is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carson O'Genic View Post
You make no mention of diet, have you considered this aspect.
I have thought of this, but perhaps not as thoroughly as necessary? I've done a detox diet for two weeks without any relief from the symptoms. This included abstaining from the following:

Sugar
Dairy Products
Wheat
Gluten
Coffee
Yeast
Alcohol
Food additives/preservatives
High-fat foods

Essentially, all I ate was brown rice, beans, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts & seeds, coconut and olive oil as well as herbal teas.
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  #7  
Old 02-12-2009, 10:09 AM
Mama Zappa Mama Zappa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Libre View Post
...
Essentially, all I ate was brown rice, beans, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts & seeds, coconut and olive oil as well as herbal teas.
Did this have any effect?

You mention it's worse toward the end of the day. Is this on workdays only or seven days a week?

A chronic post-nasal drip could certainly trigger some of those symptoms. And if you're exposed to some air pollutants at work, it'd make sense that your symptoms are worse after a day of exposure. If it's more of a mechanical / chemical irritation (vs an allergic), that might explain why the nasal steroids didn't help.

Have you tried saline nasal sprays or even a neti pot to try to wash away any irritants? Might help, might not, but those are both low-cost things you could try.
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  #8  
Old 02-12-2009, 10:25 AM
lavenderviolet lavenderviolet is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Libre View Post
Along with these symptoms, I experience chronic post-nasal drip which I suspect may be the source of my chest congestion. My doctor tells me I don't have a deviated septum or nasal polyps, and the Fluticasone nasal spray I was prescribed had no effect on my PND.
Post nasal drip can cause throat irritation so I would not be surprised if they are indeed related. I'd recommend seeing an ENT specialist (Otolaryngology) about this and see if they can recommend something to help with the nasal drainage.
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  #9  
Old 02-12-2009, 11:41 AM
MOIDALIZE MOIDALIZE is offline
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I'm constantly dealing with congestion, mostly in the mornings. It seems like I always have a blob of mucus in the back of my throat that sucks up all moisture and makes me thirsty. The real bummer is when you're in public and you're trying not to make a big "HOCCCCCCCCCCH" sound, so you vainly try to swallow it down. I have sinus and allergy problems, and possibly asthma. When I exercise my nose starts running and everything drains back there. I haven't had much success in stopping it, though Sudafed or any drug that dries up the sinuses can provide some relief.
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  #10  
Old 02-12-2009, 11:41 AM
Shayna Shayna is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mama Zappa View Post

Have you tried saline nasal sprays or even a neti pot to try to wash away any irritants? Might help, might not, but those are both low-cost things you could try.
My husband has been clearing his throat for all the years I've known him. I finally made him go to the doctor about it, and he, too, was told it was because of post nasal drip. He was given some kind of inhaler or something -- I don't remember. Anyway, it didn't work, and he never tried anything else, I guess because he was so used to doing the throat-clearing thing, he didn't really even notice it anymore, I guess.

Well, I recently got him started using a neti pot, and lo and behold, not only does he love it, but I cannot recall the last time I heard him clear his throat! I just went to Walgreens and bought one of these, which comes with all the pre-mixed ingredients to just dump in the pot and stir up. We use it in the shower, so it's very convenient.

Good luck -- I hope you get some relief soon!
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  #11  
Old 02-12-2009, 11:47 AM
MOIDALIZE MOIDALIZE is offline
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If Walgreens has neti pots, I may pick one up. It's worth a shot, I suppose.
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  #12  
Old 02-12-2009, 12:26 PM
Sigmagirl Sigmagirl is offline
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I developed a chronic cough a couple of years ago (no mucus involved, sorry) and went to several doctors with no results. Finally we learned that I had new allergy to birds and feathers -- my husband had given me a down-filled coat for Christmas.

I miss that coat.
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  #13  
Old 02-12-2009, 03:12 PM
Catfood Purrito Catfood Purrito is offline
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I have the exact same thing, and I still haven't found a really good fix for it. However, I've found a neti pot reduces my symptoms quite a bit, along with the fluticasone and occasionally some antihistamines.

However, my doctor gave me a prescription for Singulair, which is typically prescribed for asthma, but she thought it would probably help with my issue if the fluticasone did not. Basically, it inhibits mucus production. I never filled it because it's just too expensive to be worth it, since I mostly have things under control with the above measures. Might be worth asking your doc about, though.
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  #14  
Old 02-12-2009, 03:52 PM
Kalhoun Kalhoun is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LouisB View Post
Not a medical professional but I had a very similar condition that stopped when I quit smoking.
I have a friend who quit smoking cigarettes, but smokes pot A LOT and she's always got a floating loogie in her throat. The biggest problem is she doesn't clear it often enough so she's always gurgling.
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  #15  
Old 02-12-2009, 04:02 PM
ShibbOleth ShibbOleth is offline
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Do you own a sling blade? I call it a kaiser blade myself.
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  #16  
Old 02-13-2009, 01:18 AM
Libre Libre is offline
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Thank you for everyone's suggestions, and also for sharing your personal experiences.

I work at home, and I've moved three times during the past year - so unless something is following me around, I'm fairly sure it's not a workplace-related allergy. I don't have feather pillows, but I do have feather duvets. Hmm, maybe I should try just regular blankets for awhile.

Can you develop an allergy where the symptoms are not affected by antihistamines (which I did try for awhile?)

I've tried a neti pot as well, which although is really excellent for clearing/cleaning the sinuses, doesn't afford any relief for my post nasal drip.
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  #17  
Old 02-13-2009, 08:41 AM
discodancer discodancer is offline
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IANAD, but I've also some similar symptoms though not to the same degree. My probs are caused by allergies.

Have you had a bunch of allergy tests? You may be allergic to something that is uncommon. The standard allergy tests only test for the most common possible allergens.

I also have multiple allergies, one of them is to dust mites. I take an antihistimine which helps but does not eliminate all of the allergies symptoms.

I have an air filter which helps. I also have a special mattress cover and pillow case cover that are for people with dust mite allergies. I also launder my sheets, pillow cases, pillows, and blankets often in hot water and the highest setting on the dryer.

Another thing that helps is that when the heater is not on, I put a towel over the vent so that dust does not collect. Also make sure your air conditioner filter is clean. In addition, it's better not open windows.

Lastly, if your problems are worse at night, it may be because your apartment is dusty. I dust often, including the floor. If you are sensitive to the dust, you may want to hire someone to clean for you or wear a mask over your nose and mouth as you dust. I also don't wear my shoes in the house.

Is it possible that you may be allergic to something like mold? Is there a mold problem in your apartment?
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  #18  
Old 02-13-2009, 08:52 AM
discodancer discodancer is offline
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I left out the most obvious and important one if your problem is caused by allergies. Allergy shots have helped me tremendously.

Also food allergies may also cause a lot of mucus. Have you had a food allergy test done? I think that the most common food allergies are actually to some very healthy foods such as fruits and veggies.

I have also found aerobic exercise can help somewhat.

Last edited by discodancer; 02-13-2009 at 08:56 AM.. Reason: I deleted the part about neti pots since you already tried them.
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  #19  
Old 02-13-2009, 11:01 AM
Libre Libre is offline
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Hi Discodancer - thanks for the feedback on dust mites (mould is not a problem.) I've actually considered this before, but I've never gone further with it than taking antihistamines. I've gone camping for two weeks with brand new camping gear before - getting out of my home environment - which did not abate my problem; so I assumed that dust mites weren't the critters responsible.

I'll talk to my doctor about it... your suggestions appreciated.
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  #20  
Old 02-13-2009, 03:19 PM
jsc1953 jsc1953 is offline
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Not much to add except a "me too". I had a cold with chest congestion last November, and it's still here. At the same time we went through much family turmoil (wife, illness) which is ongoing, which has caused stress, diet changes, and lack of regular exercise. So god knows what's causing it or keeping it going...but I'm still coughing up loogies. It's gotten so I'm reluctant to laugh heartily, as it causes a coughing fit. A doctor has listened to my chest and didn't sound particularly alarmed, and recommended Mucinex, whcih makes it easier to cough it up, FWIW.
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  #21  
Old 11-11-2012, 02:13 PM
Elle88 Elle88 is offline
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Hey there,

My name is Elle, I just read your post and I know it was three years ago now but I was just wondering how your going and if you ever found out what the problem was because I've currently been going through the same thing for 2 years now and it's soooo frustrating!!!!!

Hope your better

Thanks Elle
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  #22  
Old 11-11-2012, 02:32 PM
VOW VOW is offline
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I'll throw in my two cents' worth to this zombie:

I've had the sinus problems, chest congestion, and asthma symptoms on top of it. My family doc finally sent me to an allergist, and I had the zillion shots for the allergy testing.

Out of ALL those jabs, he determined I'm allergic to ragweed.

So what is making me miserable? He says it's my nose. I have used Flonase off and on for years, and it's somewhat effective...up until I start getting nasty nosebleeds. He gave me another Rx nasal spray Astro-something. It helps.

I've done some reading, and there is mention of something called "environmental asthma." This is caused from perfumes, scented detergents, room fresheners, smoke, smog....basically chemical triggers.

Get rid of the regular laundry detergent, buy the "-FREE" versions that have no perfumes or dyes. Same with the fabric softeners. Eliminating fabric softeners entirely and using white vinegar in the rinse cycle is helpful for some.

Madison Avenue wants you to perfume every single aspect of your life: room fresheners come in every single form imaginable, and you can get them for your car, too! Get rid of the damned things!

Buy the unscented antipersperant, don't use any colognes or aftershaves or other personal scents. Don't use a fireplace, and if you have a wood stove for heat, make sure it is the airtight variety.

Avoid driving through smoke.

And DON'T walk down the laundry detergent aisle in the grocery store!


~VOW
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  #23  
Old 11-11-2012, 04:40 PM
Sattua Sattua is offline
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To throw my own pennies on the dead horse: I've had periods of constant throat-clearing unrelated to colds or the season. A little Googling revealed that it can be cause by acid reflux, but it is often a compulsive action. Thinking about it makes it worse, and the constant throat clearing irritates the throat and ends up creating mucous.

As a woman, I enjoy telling men that their little health problems are psychosomatic.

I'm done now.
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  #24  
Old 11-11-2012, 05:41 PM
dropzone dropzone is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sattua View Post
As a woman, I enjoy telling men that their little health problems are psychosomatic.
Yeah, my wife thought that was funny until it happened to her, too. Now she burns through asthma inhalers so fast that our pharmacist is concerned, even though they don't do her any good. I have one last Primatine inhaler hidden because I need it now and then. It should last me a year, but she'd just use it up in three days.

She still complains bitterly about my voice, though a fellow at work thinks I sound just like a guy he listens to on the radio. I think she needs more oxygen.
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  #25  
Old 01-15-2013, 06:18 AM
Ciarasonoralliste Ciarasonoralliste is offline
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I had similar problems with chronic chest congestion and throat clearing. All my tests kept coming back OK and medications weren't helping. It turned out that I was allergic to the chemicals in the bedding that make the materials "flame-retardant". I now have to have a doctor's note to purchase a custom made bed without those chemicals when I go to buy a new mattress and I make my own pillows from organic materials when my pillows need to be replaced. I haven't had any issues since.
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  #26  
Old 01-15-2013, 11:08 AM
Enright3 Enright3 is offline
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My personal story with excessive throat clearing was cured by not drinking as much coffee. The acidic nature of coffee caused acid reflux. OTC acid reflux medications only helped temporarily; and I happened upon an article about coffee consumption and excessive throat clearing. It did the trick. Good Luck. You might try going to a different doctor? Are you going to a GP or an ENT specialist?
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  #27  
Old 04-17-2013, 11:02 AM
ajaydohop ajaydohop is offline
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honey, lemon, alkanize body

One thing that helps me to some degree is to drink warm lemon water, although there is some danger of too much acidity for your teeth. This seems to cut through and dissolve some of the back throat drip. I am not sure if alkanizing the body may help, but it may. Lemon helps to alkanize. So does baking soda. Bacteria, virus, fugus thrive better in an acidic environment than an alkaline one. Therefore, alkanizing the body will help create an environment that these parasites do not like.

Also, honey in warm tea, perhaps with lemon should help. Or you can take a spoonful of honey directly. Some say that local honey that has the local allergens (preferably raw honey) can help to clear up your chest and throat back drip.

These are some of the things that I do, and they seem to help.
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  #28  
Old 04-17-2013, 03:52 PM
phreesh phreesh is offline
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As you appear to have done a thorough and earnest job or running through possible physical causes, have you considered mental?

The mind can have powerful, unconcious effects on us. Have you been depressed or experienced upheaval recently? Are you able to control the phelgm and coughing if you focus?

I don't want to suggest that this is 'all in your head', but as you seem to have done an excellent and logical job of successfully ruling out physical causes, perhaps it's time to examine mental ones. And there is no shame in something being all in your head. I don't think those causes are any less legitmate than physical ones and can often be successfully treated.
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  #29  
Old 04-17-2013, 04:39 PM
PurpleClogs PurpleClogs is offline
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I had this for 6 months. Finally figure out it was my blood pressure medicine. Ace Inhibitors are notorious for causing this but doc just forgot to tell me.
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  #30  
Old 04-18-2013, 08:56 AM
Mama Zappa Mama Zappa is offline
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Originally Posted by PurpleClogs View Post
I had this for 6 months. Finally figure out it was my blood pressure medicine. Ace Inhibitors are notorious for causing this but doc just forgot to tell me.
I'm glad you mentioned that. I went through several months of misery when I was put on lisinopril. Not the same symptoms as the OP described, mine was like the inside of my throat **itched**, and I coughed to try to scratch the itch. In my case it only occurred at night and behaved exactly like a nasty case of GERD, but GERD treatments failed to help at all. I had speculated all along that it was due to the lisinopril because the timing was nearly perfect, but the doc made a good case for it sounding like GERD so we went with that for a bit. Finally I said this is bullshit, and demanded a different BP med.... and the cough went away within a week.

The OP hasn't been back to this zombie since 2009 so hopefully his issues, whatever they are, have been identified and sorted out. But there's good info here that others might find helpful.
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  #31  
Old 06-24-2013, 10:05 AM
Cindyv88 Cindyv88 is offline
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From one throat clearer to another

I'm not a doctor but you just described my problem I've had for 19 years. I've been diagnosed with acid reflux disease and prescribed Prevacid which helps if I take a maximum dose 30 mins before breakfast and 30 mins before dinner. The gastroenterologist did an endoscopy on me and said I have a slightly damaged esophagus that allows the acid to leak out but that my body does a so far fantastic job of protecting my throat from acid damage by producing a lot of mucus, which is what makes me clear my throat all the time. Doctor Oz did a show on this disease that you should watch. The author of a book was on his show. The book was called Dropping Acid and she described this problem exactly and said its also caused by eating a lot of healthy foods that contain acid. Oranges, tomatoes, peppers, coffee, the list goes on. She said that Barrett's Esophagus (a pre-Cancer condition) can result if you dont get it under control. Sometimes I start coughing just from brushing my teeth!' The toothpaste is so acidic I guess. My problem all started when I was pregnant for my 3rd child and had pneumonia and my sucky HMO insurance would not allow my doctor to prescribe the proper Rx to treat it!! No lie! I coughed the last half of that pregnancy and ever since. The baby was 8 1/2 lbs at 3 weeks early!! It damaged my esophagus. However my Dad coughs very similar to mine and he is 80 so it might run in families too. Idk. Hope this helps.
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  #32  
Old 07-24-2013, 06:33 PM
dy95 dy95 is offline
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Going out of my mind!

Even though this thread is quite old, I just now stumbled upon it. I have had this problem for at least 3 years, but lately it's gotten worse! This year alone, I have seen an ENT (said it was acid reflux- Nexium is worthless). He looked up my nose, down my throat and did a barium swallow: next up, an endoscopy, which showed no problem down below; after that, Neurologist #1, who had me get a CT and MRI. He could not properly diagnose the results, so he sent me to Neurologist #2. After looking at all previous tests (but conducting none of his own), he said there was nothing in my neck bones causing the throat problem. Basically said I was getting older and to deal with it. On top of this, my psych doc and therapist thinks it's caused by general anxiety disorder! Either way, none of the prescribed medications have made a bit of difference! I've tried Clonazepam, Zoloft, Xanax, Remeron and Seroquel! If my primary doctor cannot figure this out, I will request a new doctor! Thanks for listening!
Don
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  #33  
Old 07-29-2013, 01:08 AM
silvermarsh silvermarsh is offline
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I have had this same issue now for at least 10 years. It cleared up some when I lost weight AND also when I went on a gluten free/dairy free diet. Main problem is not just throat clearing, but chronic coughing. Has gotten worse since getting respiratory flu in January - and was at a reception following a memorial service where everyone was smoking - DEADLY - I have not recovered since. I have been living on Robitussin every 4 hours -- I have mild COPD and asthma and take Advair and Spiriva - these meds helped control my problem until the illness in Jan and irritation in Feb...I'm now wondering what else I can do

Chest xray and sinus CAT scan all clear (recent) - pulmonary function good, spirometry readings in the 90s percentile.....was given new Rx for gastric reflux to replace Omeprazole but insurance doesn't cover it....

I plan to revisit accupunture to see if that will help (tried this in 2000). I no longer drink coffee, no milk (almond milk only) and limit dairy/cheese -- maybe limiting gluten would help -- It is definitely a quality of life zapper............

I will post anything else I find in the next few weeks
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  #34  
Old 07-29-2013, 10:31 AM
Mama Zappa Mama Zappa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by silvermarsh View Post
I have had this same issue now for at least 10 years. It cleared up some when I lost weight AND also when I went on a gluten free/dairy free diet. Main problem is not just throat clearing, but chronic coughing. Has gotten worse since getting respiratory flu in January - and was at a reception following a memorial service where everyone was smoking - DEADLY - I have not recovered since. I have been living on Robitussin every 4 hours -- I have mild COPD and asthma and take Advair and Spiriva - these meds helped control my problem until the illness in Jan and irritation in Feb...I'm now wondering what else I can do

Chest xray and sinus CAT scan all clear (recent) - pulmonary function good, spirometry readings in the 90s percentile.....was given new Rx for gastric reflux to replace Omeprazole but insurance doesn't cover it....

I plan to revisit accupunture to see if that will help (tried this in 2000). I no longer drink coffee, no milk (almond milk only) and limit dairy/cheese -- maybe limiting gluten would help -- It is definitely a quality of life zapper............

I will post anything else I find in the next few weeks
As mentioned upthread: are you on an ACE inhibitor or an ARB (angiotensin receptor blocker, I think) for blood pressure? ACEs are notorious for causing coughing; ARBs are less of an issue but it can happen.

And for reflux: Depending on what the med is, you may be able to get a variant of it. I was given Dexilant (a dual-release version of lansoprazole which is same as Protonix, I think); we were able to get insurance to cover it but if need be I could switch to twice-daily doses of Protonix (or generic) to mimic it.
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