Is postnasal drip curable?
First of all, thank you for your question. This is a complaint that we see quite frequently here at the NY Sinus Center. The short answer is yes- but we have to find the cause of the “drip”. Post nasal drip is not a single “disease” but a symptom with many causes.
Some post nasal drip is normal or physiologic. The nose and sinuses make mucous, which serves to trap dust, bacteria, viruses and other particles that we breathe in. The natural cleaning mechanism of the nose (cilia) pushes this mucous down to the back of the nose and into the throat where it is then swallowed. The acid in the stomach serves to destroy these unwanted invaders.
So, mucous going down the back of the throat is normal and serves a protective function. We make more than a quart of mucous a day. However, normally, this is a thin coating and is not something that we feel. It is a lubricant like a motor oil might be, and then only causes a problem or the sensation of a drip when the normal thin layer becomes thick or dry and then ww feel it.
We at the NY Sinus Center can help figure out what is causing the mucous to be of the wrong consistency.
Certainly an upper respiratory tract infection, or cold, temporarily causes the mucous to be thick. Allergies classically cause us to have profuse drainage at times, sometimes watery, but often of a thick “allergic” mucous. Sinus infections will cause pus to mix with the usual discharge and cause the symptom of a post nasal drip.
We find that reflux- the flow of acid up from the stomach- back up as high as the nose in many of us- irritates the back of the nose and throat and is a very common cause of postnasal drip.
Lastly, drying of the nasal and sinus cavities will cause a post nasal drip. This can be caused by dry heat in the winter- (30 degree air heated to 65 degrees is drier than the Sahara Desert)-dehydration- not drinking enough water, and drinking too much of fluids that are dehydrating (coffee for instance) – and also by medications that we may take.
Once we determine the cause of the post nasal drip, we can usually help alleviate the problem.
I hope this helps clear things up.
Robert Pincus MD
C0-Director NY Sinus Center