•Chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is a persistent infection of the bronchial tubes, which can lead to a chronic cough.
•Therapy with angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. ACE inhibitors are frequently used to treat high blood pressure. Unfortunately, cough is one of the side effects of these medications, occurring in up to 20 percent of patients.
•Heart failure and lung cancer. It’s uncommon, but sometimes a chronic cough is the first sign of either heart failure or lung cancer. Fortunately, the other less serious medical conditions I’ve mentioned above are much more common causes of cough.
Coughing interrupts sleep, producing fatigue and impairing concentration. It also can cause urinary incontinence and even fractured ribs.
A chronic cough is always worth discussing with your doctor. If it is accompanied by sputum production, bloody sputum, fever, weight loss, night sweats, breathlessness, undue fatigue or chest pain, consult your doctor without delay.
Dr. Komaroff is a physician and professor at Harvard Medical School. To send questions, go to AskDoctorK.com, or write: Ask Doctor K, 10 Shattuck St., Second Floor, Boston, MA 02115.