You probably don’t give nasal mucus a thought until it’s aggravated by a cold or allergies. Then, it can dominate your days until the underlying cause is over. While in most cases, postnasal drip is a temporary symptom that clears up with time, it can have complications, or it may be part of other rare health conditions that may not clear up naturally.
When postnasal drip becomes chronic, visit Alexis Furze, MD in Newport Beach. As an otolaryngologist and facial surgeon, Dr. Furze is uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat many of the conditions that cause post nasal drip and its complications.
The role of mucus
The lining of your nasal passages excretes mucus constantly to trap airborne particles and pathogens as well as to warm and moisturize the air you breathe. When you have a condition that affects the upper respiratory system, mucus production can go into overdrive. While your tissue consumption skyrockets, excess mucus can also drain down into your throat. It’s this rear drainage that’s called postnasal drip.
Postnasal drip is, itself, a symptom rather than a disease or medical condition, so the symptoms that exist along with post nasal drip stem from the underlying condition, and not because of mucus drainage.
Therefore, if your drip accompanies a cold, you can expect body aches and fatigue, while allergies may produce sneezing and itchy eyes along with mucus overproduction. Asthmatics could experience postnasal drip during and after attacks, while people with gastrointestinal esophageal reflux disease (GERD) may associate post nasal drip with their heartburn symptoms.
While postnasal drip is usually a minor or temporary condition, there are rare occasions when symptoms may be serious and potentially harmful, suggesting a cause that’s not temporary or easy to manage.
Your condition could be more serious when the postnasal drip is accompanied by symptoms such as:
- Extreme difficulty breathing or swallowing
- A lump in or on the throat or neck
- Sores inside your nose that won't heal
- Excessive headache or sinus pain
- Swelling of the throat or tongue
Depending on the severity of the symptoms, you may need urgent or emergency care.
4 problems that can develop from post nasal drip
Even though your experience with post nasal drip is mostly likely harmless in the long term, you can still suffer from complications. These are four of the most common:
1. Sore throat and cough
The constant presence of mucus draining down your throat causes irritation. Your voice can be raspy and sore in a way that’s different from a regular sore throat. In fact, your throat symptoms may not even start until the later stages of a cold for example, when you’re otherwise feeling better but your nose is still draining. This is a very common complication of postnasal drip.
2. Difficulty breathing and swallowing
The mucus drainage and throat irritation can interfere with normal body functions, making breathing and swallowing more labored, uncomfortable, or even painful.
3. Sleep disruptions
Postnasal drip and its accompanying conditions can make sleep uncomfortable in normal positions. You may need to prop yourself to a semi-seated sleeping posture so that gravity helps with drainage.
4. Development of a chronic condition
Mucus overproduction and poor drainage can be part of a cycle of ongoing respiratory infections, a condition called sinusitis. Postnasal drip might not contribute directly to sinusitis, but it can be a constant companion until the sinusitis is effectively treated.
Contact Alexis Furze, MD when your postnasal drip lasts more than 10 days. Call the office directly to book an appointment to find the relief you need now.