Chronic throat clearing is a problem complained of by many people. Individuals clear their throat to loosen secretions which may be irritating the throat. Patients with chronic throat clearing often complain that phlegm or secretions that are sitting in the throat must be loosened.
Throat clearing is irritating for the individual who must do this often, in the middle of conversations, meals, or meetings.
Throat clearing may be caused by:
- Increased phlegm
- Vocal fold paralysis
- Laryngopharyngeal reflux
- Cricopharyngeal dysfunction
Evaluation of an individual with throat clearing involves a full head and neck exam. Laryngoscopy and stroboscopy may be necessary to study the vocal folds and larynx. These examinations may be recorded to allow the patient to look at the throat anatomy as well.
Treatment of throat clearing depends on the cause. For cases of laryngopharyngeal reflux, dietary changes, behavioral modifications and medications may be used to control symptoms. Vocal fold paralysis and granulomas have both surgical and non surgical treatment options.
For patients without a defined cause of throat clearing, a physician may consider the idea that patients may have habitual throat clearing. Some individuals clear their throat during times of anxiety, stress, or nervousness. Others may clear their throats subconsciously, much like tapping fingers or shaking a leg. For those individuals “breaking the habit” may be difficult and require help of others, but in the long pays off.