Chronic Coughing Takes Emotional Toll

Cough that lasts for years tied to depression, experts say

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FRIDAY, May 27, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Coughing that can last for months or years is strongly linked to depression, researchers report.

"A lot of people don't realize that cough is the single most common complaint for which patients seek medical attention in the U.S. This is the first study to look at the link between cough and depression," study author Dr. Peter V. Dicpinigaitis, director of the Montefiore Cough Center in New York City, said in a prepared statement.

The study of 100 people with chronic cough that had lasted an average of nine years found that 53 percent of them experienced symptoms of depression. That percentage was similar for both men and women. The findings were presented this week at the American Thoracic Society's annual meeting in San Diego.

A follow-up study, conducted with two-thirds of the patients three months after the initial study, found that patients whose cough had improved also had a significant reduction in depressive symptoms. Patients whose cough had not improved did not experience this mood change, however.

Dicpinigaitis said chronic cough can have a serious impact on a person's quality of life.

"They are socially isolated and miserable. They are afraid to go out in public, go to church or to a restaurant. Their cough affects their relationship and their jobs. Since cough doesn't kill people, it doesn't get the attention that other conditions get. But it is a tremendous quality of life issue," he said.

Post-nasal drip, asthma and gastrointestinal reflux (GERD) are the three main causes of chronic cough. Treating those conditions can relieve the coughing.

"Often the diagnosis is difficult because in many patients, cough is their only symptom," Dicpinigaitis said.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about chronic cough.

SOURCE: American Thoracic Society, news release, May 22, 2005


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