Your lingering cough might be cough variant asthma. Here’s an introduction to this condition.
Definition and Symptoms | What Is Cough Variant Asthma?
Cough variant asthma (CVA) is a type of asthma. The chief symptom is a dry or unproductive cough (a cough without mucus) that lasts more than eight weeks. Additionally, someone with this condition may cough more when exposed to asthma triggers, such as pollen or dust or during exercise.
Despite the name, CVA doesn’t share other symptoms with traditional asthma. However, it affects the body in a way akin to asthma. More specifically, it can increase the sensitivity of the airways. CVA also causes airways to narrow and swell. As a result, it may disrupt airflow.
What Causes Cough Variant Asthma?
We don’t understand the causes of CVA well. Like asthma, however, there are triggers. And, while everyone’s triggers may be different, some common triggers include:
- Dust mites
- Mold spores
- Animal dander
- Cold air
- Changes in the weather
- Upper respiratory infections
Most people with asthma have nasal allergies, as well. An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system overreacts to a substance.
It may indicate that the immune system is responsible for causing CVA.
Additionally, some medications may also be to blame. For example, taking beta-blockers or aspirin may be the reason for your cough.
Risk Factors | Who Gets Cough Variant Asthma?
CVA is more common in children than adults, but it can develop at any age. However, some people may have a higher risk of developing CVA.
Having other allergic conditions or a family member with asthma increases your risk of developing CVA.
Environmental factors such as exposure to irritants or smoking and being overweight may also contribute to your risk of CVA.
How Is It Diagnosed?
It can be challenging to get a proper diagnosis because a cough is sometimes the only symptom. What’s more, many conditions could cause a cough, such as bronchitis or a postnasal drip.
The onset and duration of a cough can also be hard to pinpoint, which often causes doctors to look at other possible causes like acid reflux first.
Your doctor may ask a series of questions, give you a physical exam, and run a few tests. A chest x-ray and a spirometry test may help rule out any other conditions.
What is a spirometry test? Spirometry is a test that assesses lung function. It measures how much air you inhale and how much and how quickly you exhale. Medical professionals diagnose asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other respiratory conditions with a spirometry test.
If your symptoms and test results don’t indicate asthma, the next step is a methacholine challenge test.
Methacholine is an asthma trigger. In other words, methacholine causes airways to constrict. Someone with asthma will experience symptoms at a much lower dose than someone without asthma.
First, you’ll do a spirometry test to establish lung function. Then, you’ll inhale methacholine aerosol before another spirometry test. A bronchodilator will reverse the effects and open the airways afterward.
The test is positive for asthma if lung function drops by 20% or more.
CVA responds well to asthma medication, which may help a healthcare worker diagnose it. If a doctor suspects CVA, they may skip the methacholine test and start treating your persistent cough with asthma medication, and if you respond to treatment, diagnose CVA.
RELATED: Why Do We Cough?
How Is It Treated?
Over-the-counter medicine doesn’t target airway issues, and most people with CVA don’t get any relief from it. Therefore it’s crucial to get diagnosed and treated by a healthcare professional.
Treatment for CVA usually involves a similar approach to asthma and consist of a combination of drugs, including:
- Allergy medication.
- Bronchodilators to open airways.
- Corticosteroids or anti-inflammatory drugs that ease and prevent swelling.
- A beta antagonist to prevent future asthma attacks.
In addition to medication, your doctor may advise you to avoid whatever triggers an attack, like smoke, pollen, or pet dander.
Complications and Outlook | How Serious Is Cough Variant Asthma?
In general, CVA doesn’t cause significant problems, but it can affect your quality of life.
Firstly, coughing at night causes sleep disruptions, which can lead to absences for school or work because of fatigue. Persistent coughing may also cause lightheadedness, vomiting, and urinary incontinence.
Furthermore, CVA may cause asthma. A study found 30 to 40 % of adults with CVA will develop classic asthma. Uncontrolled asthma can be fatal.
For this reason, it’s vital to seek medical treatment for a cough that lasts longer than eight weeks.
With the right treatment, most people lead regular, active lives and don’t experience severe long term effects.
CVA may not be the first cause your doctor thinks of if you have a persistent cough. That’s why it’s essential to keep track of your cough. Keep a cough diary. CVA itself may not be life-threatening, but it can progress to asthma. Always consult your doctor if you have a persistent cough for more than eight weeks.
Have you been diagnosed with asthma or cough variant asthma? Share your experience in the comment section