A chronic cough is defined as one that lasts for eight weeks or more. A new study has shown that around 160,000 Danes – or 4 percent of the population – suffer from this affliction, which could be a sign of a serious lung infection such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, reports DR Nyheder.
Morten Dahl, a senior doctor from Zealand’s University Hospital in Køge, has been studying the subject and he admits to being surprised that so many people had been coughing for so long.
A surprisingly high order of magnitude
“It’s a bit surprising that there are so many people who suffer from chronic coughing. It’s a problem that has been overlooked and not so much has been known about the illness before,” said Dahl.
“However, 4 percent is about the same order of magnitude as are afflicted by some of the other big diseases common in the population such as type 1-diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis.”
Dahl explains that while some people are only slightly incommoded by chronic coughing, others find it drastically disrupts their social activities and working life and they have to cope with tiredness, aching muscles and problems with incontinence.
Don’t want to bother the doctor
At the same time, many people don’t go to their doctor. “If you are a smoker and have a cough, perhaps you don’t bother to see your GP to have it checked. But there are in fact a great many causes of diseases that you can do something about,” advised Dahl.
Professor Peter Lange from Hvidovre Hospital, who is an expert on lung disease, agrees.
“If you keep on coughing – sometimes also accompanied by other symptoms such as wheezing or coughing up phlegm – then you need to see your doctor. It’s not normal to continue to cough,” he said.
According to Lange, asthma, chronic sinus problems and stomach acid in the oesophagus are some of the most common causes of long-term coughing.
“Sometimes it can be something very serious such as COPD or lung cancer, so it is important to catch it early,” he cautioned.