Persistent non-productive cough - British Liver Trust

British Liver Trust

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Persistent non-productive cough

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Hi, my husband has end stage liver disease and has now got primary liver cancer, which has ruled out chance of a transplant. Reason for posting is that he has developed a chronic, non-productive cough which is driving him mad. None of the doctors he has seen can identify the cause and/or offer any appropriate treatment and it is getting worse.

If anyone has any suggestions for possible causes or has experienced similar problems , we would be really grateful to hear from you.

With thanks

18 Replies

Have they ruled out asthma ? A persistent cough can be a sign. He is probably breathless with the liver failure but there might be an element of asthma. If its not been mentioned ask the consultant.

Is he on any blood pressure medication very often that can give you a chronic cough. I had a terrible cough for 2 years after a terrifying major bleed and terrible ascites. Not sure what caused it (maybe intubation) but was very distressing. I tried asthma pumps, omeprazole,antihistamine local honey, nothing seemed to work for me but might be worth a try for him. Is he coughing through the night too as if he is he'll be very frustrated and tired too. Hope you get some answers soon.

hi, had something similar. Decompensated liver, developed this cough, was in hospital at the time so had xrays done. Coughed so bad, pulled muscles in my stomach and was given tramadol for the pain. Think it was put down to being in bed literally the whole time. Just given cough mixture but it lasted for months.....would ask for an xray to be on the safe side if its getting worse.

Had a similar cough went on and on would just start cougjimg and couldnt stop epecially irritatong at night .

In the end i asled for antibioyics they didnt refuse because id had it so long and it cleared so i would say ask even if they say its a virus.good luck cazer.

Many thanks for the responses- good to know we are not alone!

Gordon has been given inhalers , which don't seem to help much. However, GP has now given him antibiotics, so fingers crossed that may work. I will also look into changing his blood pressure medication.

One good thing is that he is able to sleep quite well: coughing mainly triggered by talking.

Thanks for the support.


I did read somewhere that one of the symptoms of cirrhosis is a persistent cough that doesn't clear up, I'll try to find the link for you, though admittedly I've only ever seen that particular symptom on one website!

My husband, in similar circumstances, coughed horribly while taking Ramipril and it has eased almost to nothing now he has been taken off this drug. Just mentioning this in case it is relevant. Wishing you both all the best. xx

I had a 'cancer' cough when i had a liver cancer tumour. Docs ruled out asthma and chest infection. The cough went when i had the tumour removed.

Many thanks to everyone who has been kind enough to respond. We've got quite a few avenues to pursue. Just hoping it isn't cancer cough as Gordon has too many tumours to remove.

Will post back if we find any methods that improve the situation.

Best wishes to all.


Hello, i have the same problem with my husband, he has a persistent cough, it lasted 6 months, them all of a sudden it stopped but now is back again, he doesnt go to the Dr at all he is with homeopathy, i give him honey with lemon but it doesnt work at all, just for a copule of hours and then is the same, i worry a lot, he is allergic to dust and has rinithis but this thing started after 2 years of chirrosis diagnosis, i am afraid something serious is going on and we dont know what it is.......maybe somebody knows if it is related to the liver at all? THANK You in advance. ; )

Hello, I had a persistent cough that started around the time I was diagnosed with breast cancer 5 years ago, initially I thought it may be stress, was continually at the docs with it, had lots of chest xrays, medication for acid reflux. then it was decided that I had ashma and was put on inhalers but the cough kept coming and going mainly in the summer. after 4 years the ashma nurse at my GP's did another round of trying everything that it could have been and treating these and concluded it was an ashma cough, well nothing amazing in that except she prescribed a medication - Montelukast and 14 months later the cough still hasnt come back which is amazing as I probably had the cough for 9 or 10 months every year.


Hi , a cough was one of my original cirrhosis symptoms which I suffered with for about 10 years till my transplant this January. It actually felt like a build up of mucous in my throat which I just couldn't shift.

I never got an explanation but I did read something about Gastropathy which is part of Portal Hypertension, and wondered about that but I'm no expert.


Mo1780 profile image
Mo1780 in reply to

Thank you for posting .For months I have been clearing my throat. No one thought to check the liver for this .The docs have been treating me for allergies and reflux .My gastro doc happen to do a blood test on me which no on else thought to do sure enough my liver enzymes are elevated. I have to do a fibroscan this week to see if there is scarring .My liver is a lityle enlarged.I don't even drink always thought this was cause by it but it can be medications ,diet, drinking or autoimmune issues where the body attacks the liver.

Hi, I have cirrhosis and I too suffer from a horrible, annoying, embarrassing, scratchy cough that goes on for months, year after year. It keeps me up at night and it makes me retch. I survive on Jakemans menthol sweets and if it becomes unbearable I take Solpadeine. I take a tiny dose, the idea being that it's not great for the liver to take paracetamol, but I think the codeine does the trick. I've seen many doctors and this is the story. Since the x-ray was clear & I don't have lung cancer, it could be acid reflux, allergy, asthma, or the beta blockers I'm on for portal hypertension. I've tried switching beta blockers, lansoprazole, a beclometasone dipropionate inhaler, various OTC cough mixtures, all to no avail. The curious thing is that it usually starts when I catch a bug, which turns into bronchitis and wakes the sleeping giant. It lasts for months until the day I turn the heat off in my flat. Gone. So I think it's the heat. Has anyone noticed this connection?

Yes I noticed that connection , if the heater is on in the car it sets me off. It also happens with the cold too coming from cold temp to inside I start coughing. It's interesting to see so many cirrhosis sufferers have this cough but they still don't have a clue what causes it! I put mine down to trauma of the throat down to oesophageal bleed and intubation but who knows, very strange/ frustrating.

Yes, I agree it's very strange/frustrating. I have varices too but they never bled. Since the heat's been off for a few months, no major flu/cold, no sign of the cough. Wish you luck with your cough. Do let me know if you learn more.

That’s interesting because it’s been my biggest complaint to the Drs regarding my husband for about 18months now. He has had CT scan on lungs and several X-rays and the only explanation they keep coming up with is that as he has ascites it is the water levels which rise at night and tickle his lungs. Only last month the hepatologist consultant at Addenbrooks said there was no generally known connection to the liver with a cough??? He also breathes in his upper chest at night and I feel,he is hyperventilating, but his oxygen levels are always good. JX

My husband has also been bailing a terrible cough. He noticed that is worse when he drinks or eats. Had anyone else noticed this correlation? Dr thought it was his ACE inhibitor, but we have not seen any relief after months of being off this medication.

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