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Cough Diagnosis

Cough Diagnosis
Causes and Risk Factors

The cause of cough may not be immediately apparent. In the case of chronic cough, more than one cause may simultaneously be at work.  However, diagnosing any breathing problem at an early stage is most important to receiving proper care and treatment in good time.  A full medical examination and laboratory tests may be necessary to arrive at a correct diagnosis and effective treatment. While you may initially consult your family doctor, you may be referred to a pulmonologist, a doctor who specializes in lung disorders.

You can prepare for your doctor's visit by recording a detailed list and description of your symptoms, information about your past medical problems and those of your parents or siblings.  Also prepare a list of medications and dietary supplements you take.  Finally, you'll benefit from listing all the questions to ask your doctor.  Take these lists with you to your appointment.

Medical history
Your doctor will first ask you to provide a thorough medical history.  Some questions your doctor may ask you during your visit include:

  • Do you get more short of breath with exertion?
  • Do you get more short of breath on exposure to cold air?
  • Do you now or have you ever smoked tobacco?
  • Do you take blood pressure medicine? If so, what type do you take?
  • Does anything relieve your cough?
  • When does your cough occur? After meals? At night?

Medical examinations
A physical exam can provide important clues about a chronic cough.  In the greatest majority of cases, the specific cause of cough can be diagnosed and successfully treated with therapy specific for the cause. Doctors can often pinpoint the underlying cause of a cough through response to treatment rather than by tests. If your cough goes away with treatment for a particular problem, diagnosis is confirmed. Treatments include:

  1. Acid reflux - acid-reducing medications
  2. Asthma - inhalers or nasal sprays
  3. Postnasal drip - antihistamines and decongestants

If medical treatment fails or you become frustrated with the trial-and-error process, you may need one or more of the following tests.

Chest X-ray - used to check for lung cancer and other lung diseases.

Computerized tomography (CT scan). A CT scan takes X-rays from many different angles and then combines them to form cross-sectional images. This technique can provide more detailed views of your lungs. CT scans also may be used to check your sinus cavities for pockets of infection.

Lung function tests - These simple, noninvasive tests measure how much air your lungs can hold and how fast you can inhale and exhale. Assessment tools such as peak cough flow measurement, respiratory muscle strength, and inspiratory capacity measure the different components of cough. An asthma challenge test may also be recommended.

Scope tests  - Scope tests use a thin, flexible tube equipped with a light and camera to visualize structures within your body. Doctors spray your nose or throat with a numbing agent or you may be given sedatives or pain relievers to make the procedure less uncomfortable. Scope tests include:

    • Bronchoscopy
    • Nasal endoscopy
    • Upper endoscopy

After diagnosis, you can start to begin treatment.  To learn more about cough treatment for different types of coughs, read on. We cover basic information on cough remedies in the Cough Treatment section that follows.

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Tags: chronic cough, cough, dietary supplements, medical treatment, benefit from, Lung Cancer, medications, treatments, infection, endoscopy, procedure, treatment, diagnosis, Diseases, symptoms, chronic, dietary, Asthma, angles, Cancer
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