Post nasal drip symptoms start appearing when excessive mucus is produced by the nasal sinuses. Nasal sinuses are the bones of the face adjacent to the nasal cavity, lined with mucous membrane that is continuous with the inner lining of the nose. The excessive mucus produced by the sinuses accumulates in the back of the nose or the throat.
A healthy individual produces about two quarts of fluid (mucus). The microscopic hair in the nasal cavity help in brushing away the particles and the mucus is moved back to the throat and keeps the respiratory tract clean and moist. Excessive post nasal drip or nasal discharge manifests as numerous symptoms, including throat irritation. However, before we try to understand how, it is necessary to understand nasal discharge causes.
Post nasal drip is actually a general term for the sensation of thick phlegm in the throat. It is actually a part of the body’s defense mechanism and part of the mucous-nasal-cilia system for protection against disease.
There are two types of secretions or post nasal drips: thin and thick. Thin secretions can be caused by cold, flu, cold weather, certain foods and spices, allergies, pregnancy and hormonal changes. Thick secretions can result from nasal infections, sinusitis, allergies and rhinitis. Post nasal drip may also be due to laryngopharyngeal reflux or the backflow of stomach contents to the upper airways.
Rhinitis is the most common among nasal discharge causes. Rhinitis is a common condition that has numerous causes but basically it is the inflammation of the inner linings of the nasal cavities. Among others, the most common symptom of rhinitis is post nasal drip. Nasal discharge falling in the back of the throat may be infected, which is why post nasal drip sometimes results in throat irritation, sore throat and chronic cough.
Post nasal drip treatment is in the domain of an allergist, gastroenterologist or an ENT specialist but if the condition is mild you can consult a general practitioner or a pediatrician as the case may be. The first line of treatment is with steroid nasal sprays as steroids are potent anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic agents. Long term use has adverse side effects and nasal sprays should be used under guidance of your doctor and tapered off rather than stopping abruptly. Other treatment options include oral steroids, decongestants and antihistamines. Antibiotics are prescribed only if an infection is identified. There may be a case of acid control medications if post nasal drip is due to laryngopharyngeal reflux.
Prevalence of post nasal drip does not always signify infection but the sore throat and throat irritation may result in swelling of tonsils and other tissues in the throat. Other post nasal drip symptoms can be quite frustrating leading to discomfort and a feeling of a lump in the throat too.