Home HealthTopics Health Centers Reference Library Research
Join us on Facebook Join us on Facebook Share on Facebook

Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

Throat wheezing

03/04/2004

Question:

When I get excessive sinus drainage, I get congestion in my throat and it wheezes. Why the throat? And what do I do to get rid of it? It`s very irritating to my coworkers.

Answer:

I believe that this mucus is not a result of sinus drainage. Rather it is a result of acid reflux. Our sinuses produce a quart of mucus everyday, all day. You swallow that mucus and you are not even aware that it happens. Typically when you produce so much mucus from your nose or sinuses that you can feel it in your throat, you are usually blowing some of it out of your nose. Now, it is possible to produce mucus in the nose that preferentially drains down the back of the throat. In these situations, one usually complains of some nasal or sinus symptoms as well, like nasal congestion, sneezing, midface pressure, etc. I find most people say they have sinus problems and proceed to mention all kind of symptoms that have little to do with the nose or sinuses. Most people with complaints like yours usually will have some of the following complaints when questioned further: frequent throat clearing, occasional cough, occasional hoarseness, lump in the throat sensation, choking episodes (possibly worse at night), difficulty swallowing, recurring sore throat, bad breathe and maybe heartburn. Heartburn has been looked at in patients with these throat complaints. The majority of patients (60-70%) will NOT complain of heartburn. Many people find it hard to believe that they are suffering from acid reflux if they are not experiencing heartburn or indigestion. Even after a doctor tells them that this is their problem, they still don`t believe it. People would rather take cold and sinus medications even though they are not improving. The important point about treating this condition is to understand that the symptoms may not completely resolve for 3-6 months. Usually this condition is treated with acid suppressing medication and lifestyle and dietary changes. The more effective medications are available by prescription and are usually prescribed once per day. In severe cases, they can be given twice daily. The dietary changes required usually involve decreasing ones intake of coffee, soda, chocolate, alcohol and in some cases spicy foods. The lifestyle changes would include not laying down for 3 hours after eating, in particular dinner, decreasing (eliminating)cigarette smoking and weight loss if one is overweight. My recommendation to you is that you should consult your primary care doctor first. If he/she cannot resolve this problem for you then I would recommend seeing and Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. Good Luck with your problem. Keith M. Wilson, M.D., F.A.C.S. 

For more information:

Go to the Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Keith M Wilson, MD Keith M Wilson, MD
Associate Professor of Otolaryngology, Director of Head and Neck Division
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati