What is catarrh?
This term is used to describe an excessive build-up of mucus in the nose, post nasal space (space behind the nose), or throat. A constant awareness of this build up can be very annoying for the sufferer.
What are its symptoms?
It can lead to excessive blowing of the nose, coughing, or constant clearing of the throat.
It is important to differentiate between an actual build up of mucus and a sensation of build up. An endoscope is useful in examining the nose, post nasal space, and throat.
Do we all produce nasal mucus?
Yes. As mentioned in the section on nasal blockage the lining of the nose has glands that produce mucus. Catarrh can be due to excessive production of mucus or a change in its viscosity. A person who produces thicker or stickier mucus is more likely to notice its presence. In this latter situation the person does not produce excessive mucus, but its consistency has changed and hence it is more noticeable.
What are its causes?
Any form of inflammation that affects the nasal lining can lead to catarrh. Irritation due to pollution, allergies, infection, or chemical exposure can all cause this symptom. History and examination helps in deciphering the possible causes.
Paradoxically, a dry nose, post nasal space or throat can also give a sensation of catarrh. This is seen in some individuals who complain of catarrh particularly in the mornings on waking up. Mouth breathing through the night can lead to dryness, and a sensation of catarrh in the mornings.
How is it treated?
Treatment is again tailored to the individual depending on the findings. Catarrh can be difficult to manage unless the underlying condition is diagnosed and treated. Sometimes all examination findings and investigations are negative, and treatment in such a situation is empirical.