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Why does post nasal drip occur?

Post Nasal Drip is a problem that occurs due to an excessive secretion of mucus, from the sinus cavities, flowing down to the back of the throat. There are a number of reasons why this condition occurs as well as other complications that may result from post nasal drip.

During post nasal drip, the following problems are common:

  • Accumulation of excess mucus in the throat causing hawking up of mucus
  • Infected mucus causing a sore throat
  • Irritation of the throat
  • A constant urge to blow the nose to get rid of excess mucus
  • A constant urge to clear the throat
  • Coughing up mucus
  • Bad breath due to the presence of excess mucus in the throat

The above are some of the common problems that a person suffering from post nasal drip needs to manage. However, if people know why post nasal drip occurs, then it can be controlled or managed by making some changes in one's lifestyle.

Causes of Post Nasal Drip (PND)

In normal cases, when mucus is produced, it goes down the throat and into the stomach without ever noticing the process. Tiny hair-like cells called cilia located in the mucus membrane “sweep” mucus along to help this process run smoothly. Mucus helps to lubricate the nasal membrane as well as trap and get rid of foreign particles that we may breathe in . However, there are certain instances where particular medical conditions, allergies, medications, and atmospheric conditions distort or interfere with the normal flow and secretion of this mucus.

In such cases, there is an increase in the production of mucus where cilia would be overwhelmed and unable to control its flow. Mucus will start to accumulate, and it may become sticky and thick, thereby blocking the passages in the nose. Once this happens, mucus has no other way to flow except down the back of the throat. It is now that the process becomes noticeable, and we say that you have post nasal drip. Note that the mucus may be sticky, thick or thin depending on the predisposing or underlying cause. As much as post nasal drip would not be fatal or life threatening per se, it may result in other problems such as sinus, chest or ear infections. This underlines the importance of diagnosing the problem as well as treating it at the earliest time possible.

Many factors cause post nasal drip; some of those factors that cause post nasal drip are listed below:

  • Colds and Flu’s – Frequent exposure to colds and flu’s often leads to post nasal drip and sinus infections.
  • Allergies – People who are allergic to dust and pollution are more prone to getting post nasal drip. Depending on the allergy type, severity level of post nasal drip can be identified. If it is temporary i.e. seasonal allergies, then PND should automatically clear up when the allergy period ends.
  • Sinusitis – Swelling in the nasal passage or sinuses may lead to post nasal drip. Irritants like dust particles, smog, pollution particles, etc. often cause swelling in the nasal passage, which results in post nasal drip.
  • Nasal Obstruction – Inflammation of nasal tissues creates an obstruction in the nasal passage. Nasal polyps are one type of nasal obstruction that can cause post nasal drip.
  • Medications – Medicines may also cause post nasal drip. Taking medicines can imbalance the hormonal system resulting in increased mucus secretion, which in turn, results in the backward flow of mucus from the nose to the throat. Medicine related to pregnancy, birth control and blood pressure can cause increased mucus secretion.
  • Temperature – Frequent temperature changes like exposure to cold instantly after heat or vice versa for an extended period disturbs the working of the nasal mucosa, which can cause post nasal drip.
  • Eating habits – Consumption of specific food items can make mucus thick and increase the secretion of mucus which results in the inflammation of the nasal passages. Such food items include dairy products, caffeine, alcohol and cigarette smoke.
  • Swallowing problems – Swallowing problems can increase mucus secretion, which starts accumulating at the back of the nose and throat thereby causing post nasal drip.

These are some of the causes of post nasal drip. Knowledge of why post nasal drip occurs can help to manage this condition correctly. For example, cutting down on alcohol, cigarettes, medicines that cause PND, managing frequent temperature changes, etc. can help to regulate mucus production from the nasal mucosa and if mucus is produced and secreted in the required amounts only then it can be controlled.

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