Approach to chronic cough: the neuropathic basis for cough hypersensitivity syndrome
Chronic cough is a common symptom that can be difficult to manage because associated causes may remain elusive and treatment of any associated cause may not provide relief. Current antitussives have limited efficacy and undesirable side-effects. Patients with chronic cough describe sensory symptoms suggestive of upper airway and laryngeal neural dysfunction, and report cough triggered by low-level physical and chemical stimuli supporting the concept of cough reflex hypersensitivity. Mechanisms underlying peripheral and central augmentation of the afferent cough pathways have been identified. Chronic cough is a neuropathic condition that could be secondary to sensory nerve damage caused by inflammatory, infective and allergic factors. Recent success in the treatment of chronic cough with agents used for treating neuropathic pain such as gabapentin and amitryptiline would also support this concept. Research into neuropathic cough may lead to the discovery of more effective antitussives.