Chronic cough significantly impacts life quality in women


In women, chronic cough may prompt urinary incontinence and embarrassment

Chronic cough affects women more severely than men and greatly impacts their quality of life, says a study published in the February issue of CHEST, the peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Chest Physicians. The study found that more women than men seek medical care for chronic cough because their quality of life is more compromised by physical and psychosocial issues. The study also found that women with chronic cough who seek medical treatment for cough are more likely than their male counterparts to suffer from urinary incontinence and consequent feelings of embarrassment. Researchers from the Departments of Medicine and Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School, examined the relationship between gender and health-related quality of life in patients with chronic cough who seek medical attention and the extent to which chronic cough affected health-related quality of life. Researchers analyzed data collected from a cough specific quality of life questionnaire (CQLQ) completed by 172 patients (116 women and 56 men) seeking medical attention for chronic cough and a control group of 31 smokers (22 women and 9 men) who were observed to be coughing but were not complaining of cough. The CQLQ measures quality of life in patients with chronic cough in regards to 28 adverse complaints that are grouped into six subscales: physical complaints; psychosocial issues; functional abilities; emotional well-being; extreme physical complaints; and personal safety fears. In the group of chronic coughers, significantly more women than men reported physical and extreme physical complaints, such as headache, painful breathing, nausea, and most significantly, urinary incontinence. Women also reported more psychosocial issues, including embarrassment, family unable to tolerate chronic cough, and upset by response of others. In the control group of smokers, women complained of urinary incontinence significantly more than men.

"Cough of any kind is not normal and is typically a sign that something is wrong with the patient. Chronic cough is most often caused by a postnasal drip syndrome from nose and sinus diseases, asthma, or gastroesophageal reflux disease," said Ms. French. "If a precise cause for a patient's cough can be found, specific therapies can be used to treat the source, which will greatly reduce the incidence of cough and its effects on the body."

"The impact of chronic cough on health and quality of life is substantial. In the United States, cough is the most common complaint for which patients seek medical attention, resulting in over $1 billion in annual health-care costs," said Paul A. Kvale, MD, FCCP, President-Elect of the American College of Chest Physicians. "To provide the most effective and patient-focused care, physicians must be aware of how to diagnose and manage chronic cough according to the best available evidence to maximize favorable outcomes. If cough persists after treatment, physicians should consider referring patients to cough specialists."

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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