Mucus is normally produced by your throat and nose glands, and it’s swallowed without you even noticing it. When it thickens or builds up, however, it can cause post-nasal drip and a host of annoying symptoms.
In this blog, ear, nose and throat specialist Dr. Cecil Yeung of Houston Sinus Surgery at the Yeung Institute outlines the common causes of post-nasal drip.
What is post-nasal drip?
Mucus performs important functions in your nasal membranes, helping to fight infection, clean out foreign particles, and humidify air before it reaches your lungs. Nose and throat glands produce about a quart or two of mucus a day, and most of the time it’s able to drain normally. It drips down the back of your nose into the back of your throat, mixes with saliva, and is swallowed without you noticing it.
However, post nasal drip can cause mucus to build up or become thicker than normal, and you may notice an irritating feeling of it dripping down the back of your throat.
What are its symptoms?
The following are some of the most common symptoms:
- A noticeable feeling of mucus dripping down the back of your throat
- Chronic coughing, most often getting worse at night
- Feeling as though you need to frequently clear your throat
- A sore throat
Mucus can also cause other problems as a result of its inability to drain properly. If your Eustachian tube, which connects the throat and your middle ear, gets stopped up by mucus, it could cause an ear infection. The same is true of a sinus infection if your sinuses are clogged.
What causes post-nasal drip?
The thickened or excess mucus that’s unable to drain properly can result from any of the following causes:
- Sinus infection
- Certain medications – including some that treat blood pressure and some that are used for birth control
- Nasal polyps – non-cancerous growths on the lining of the nose and sinuses that can cause mucus to become blocked
- Deviated septum – a crooked or off-center wall of cartilage between your two nostrils can also cause mucus to become blocked
- Environmental irritants – such as smoke, chemicals, or perfume
- Pregnancy – can cause hormonal changes that affect your nose and sinuses
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – characterized by acid backing up into the esophagus or throat, sometimes causing throat irritation that can make it hard to swallow
How is it treated?
If your post nasal drip last for more than 10 days, smells foul, or you’re wheezing, you should seek medical attention. This is especially true if there’s blood in your mucus.
Otherwise, you can try some home remedies, including the following:
- Staying well hydrated
- Using saline nasal sprays
- Sleeping with your head slightly elevated
- Using a humidifier or vaporizer
If home remedies aren’t effective enough, you have ongoing issues or have a symptom that’s cause for concern, an ear, nose, and throat specialist (ENT) can treat your condition. Your doctor can help alleviate symptoms while also treating the underlying condition that’s the cause of your discomfort. Treatments may include the following:
- Cortisone steroid nasal spray
- Antibiotics – only for postnasal drip caused by a bacterial infection
- Medications that block stomach acid production – for post nasal drip caused by GERD
- Surgery – to correct structural issues such as nasal polyps or a deviated septum
If you’re experiencing symptoms of post nasal drip, make an appointment today with Houston Sinus Surgery at the Yeung Institute. Dr. Yeung has more than 20 years of experience in treating nasal and sinus conditions such as post nasal drip and is dedicated to providing the least invasive, most effective treatment possible.